In the summer of 2011, Toyota Motor Corporation announced its plans for a partnership with the new trendy automaker: Tesla Motors. Almost four years later, the partnership has ceased, but the efforts toward sustainability continue with full speed.
Toyota and Tesla had joined forces to develop Toyota’s first electric vehicle. The news did not come as a surprise since Toyota acquired a 3 percent stake in the Silicon Valley upstart a year earlier, which many considered a sign for something bigger. This collaboration led to the creation of a new electric version of the RAV4, one of Toyota’s most popular models.
Today we will dive deeper into what this collaboration meant for both companies. With Tesla Cybertruck and Toyota Mirai the two marques seem to be drifting apart rather than coming together. What happened with that Toyota EV?
What is Toyota RAV4 EV?
Though now discontinued, this eSUV was dreamed to be a gamechanger. They basically took one of the most popular Toyota models and decided to properly electrify it. Here is where Tesla comes in. Their of the deal focused on supplying the electric powertrain components, including the motor and lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack.
RAV4 EV was supposed to provide both a good range and a “spirited driving”. It came in two versions – normal and sport – where the latter allowed for acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 7s. The sport mode provides 154 horsepower. Though somewhat impressive for an SUV, it is nowhere near what current EVs offer.
A sad omission was the one-pedal breaking system that Tesla has in their models. Instead Toyota decided to equip their eSUV with their Prius’s breaks to the dislike of many fans.
The battery pack of the RAV4 EV consisted of nearly 4,500 cells and was rated at 41.8 kWh. To maximize the battery life you could switch between two charging modes. The standard one charged the battery to 35kWh, reducing its range to 92 miles and extending its life. The extended mode charged the battery to its full capacity for a range of 118 miles.
How successful was Toyota RAV4 EV?
Knowing that the whole project is now discontinued, you can imagine that something did not work out. The RAV4 EV had a low-volume production from the get-go though and sold solely in certain Californian markets.Only 2,600 vehicles were to be produced during a period of three years. Interestingly enough, almost all vehicles were sold with 2,533 RAV4 EVs in circulation, and the rest were saved as test and display vehicles.
The partnership provided Toyota with “a compliance car” to meet the zero-emission rules issued by the California Air Resource Board. And for Tesla, the deal meant money, its first factory at a bargain price, and the credibility that comes with working together with an industry leader.
So what went wrong? Nothing really. Despite a minor software problem, which required a recall of some vehicles, the partnership outcome had no serious issues. The clashes that occurred between the two automakers were primarily over the ideology behind the development of electric vehicles.
The decision came from Toyota, who decided to focus on hydrogen fuel cell cars. The company said it would cease any all-electric vehicle development, shifting entirely to the aforementioned technology.
What is Toyota planning in the EV niche?
For a while, it seemed like the Japanese automaker had no plans to replace the RAV4 anytime soon. In November 2015, however, rumours spread that Toyota planned on refreshing the RAV4 EV. In alignment with the company’s strategic focus, Toyota turned the RAV4 into a hybrid instead.
Currently, Toyota’s focus on hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is what sets the company apart. They might as well be the only company that is not placing bets on the EV market. Or actually, betting against it.
The Japanese automaker has committed to a broad strategy of sustainable mobility. In that sense, the partnership served as a tactical step in Toyota’s long-term strategy towards sustainability.
The Toyota-Tesla partnership will be remembered not because of the RAV4 EV that came out as a result of the deal, but because of the symbolic unity that the partnership created. The 2012 RAV4 EV represented a consolidation of two disparate corporate cultures – a traditionalist with a vision and an innovative startup.
But did you know that the history behind electric and hybrid cars is way complicated? Learn more about it by reading Corsia Logistics article on: The World’s First Hybrid Car. However, shipping an EV or hybrid car does not have to be complicated at all. How does that work? Give us a call and we will be happy to help you out and give you a quote.