Toyota betting on low-cost Tesla battery to make profit from RAV4 EV

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 17, 2011

The cost of the batteries to be installed on the electric RAV4 crossover that Toyota is developing with Tesla Motors could be as little as one-third of the electric car batteries that conventional automakers are developing, according to Toyota’s top engineer.

Tesla is using thousands of lithium-ion batteries typically used in laptops to power its zero-emission Roadster sports car.

Meanwhile, other carmakers with electric models such as Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. are using expensive batteries intended specifically for EV use.

In a Reuters interview, Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota' executive vice president for research and development, said that if Tesla's battery structure works, they won’t need to wait for a breakthrough in battery technology to be able to offer “a relatively cheap electric vehicle."

Uchiyamada said that the cost of these batteries is low because laptop batteries are built in immense volumes. Last year, Toyota partnered with Tesla.

They are currently rushing to be able to offer a RAV4 EV by next year, which is also when Toyota will launch a tiny electric commuter car developed in-house. Toyota asserted that the RAV4 EV is designed for drivers traveling longer distances, while its own EV would be for those who drive short distances.

Uchiyamada said that the cooperation with Tesla is an “experiment,” which challenges Toyota's own engineers to work with the approach of a startup. He did not confirm if Toyota had decided on whether to roll out more joint models in the future. [via autonews - sub. required]

Topics: tesla, toyota

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