Ending weeks of speculation, Tesla and Toyota announced today that they plan to develop an all-electric version of Toyota's RAV4 small crossover, using Tesla's battery and electric drive technology in Toyota's vehicle.
Last week, chairman Akio Toyoda announced that Toyota was already working to fit Tesla battery packs into test vehicles. Then, news reports had identified the two vehicles Tesla was developing for Toyota as the RAV4 and the Corolla sedan.
Now the joint announcement, issued in Tokyo and Palo Alto, California, has confirmed the accuracy of the RAV4 reports, following just a few days after Tesla told us it could not comment on the specific vehicles.
Toyota RAV4e electric vehicle, San Francisco, March 2010
Toyota plans to market the all-electric RAV4 in the U.S. in 2012, the same year the Ford Focus Electric will enter the market and one year after GM and Nissan market their own electric vehicles, both of which are five-door hatchbacks.
Tesla said it will build a fleet of prototype RAV4 electrics and deliver them to Toyota by the end of this year. One prototype, it said, has already been completed and is now being tested.
The new electric crossovers harken back to Toyota's previous electric vehicle, the 1997-2003 Toyota RAV4 EV, which it built in small numbers for sale in California. The few remaining examples in private hands are still running reliably, and cherished by their owners.
2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5
At the moment, Tesla is the only company selling highway-capable electric vehicles in the U.S., in the form of its latest 2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5.
That will change in November, when the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevrolet Volt go on sale.