Toyota RAV4 EV to be assembled in Canada, will hit the streets in 2012

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 4, 2011

Toyota Motor Corp.’s electric RAV4 will not be assembled at the plant in California that Tesla acquired from the Japanese automaker. Instead, Toyota will produce the model in-house in Canada in 2012. The companies revealed that Toyota’s EV, which is powered by Tesla, will be built in Woodstock, Ontario, where Toyota produces the gasoline-powered RAV4 crossover. Toyota declined to discuss volume expectations for the electric vehicle.

It also didn’t say how much the model will retail for at its dealerships beginning in 2012. Toyota has recently announced that it has entered a deal with Tesla valued at $100 million. Tesla is tasked to make an electric powertrain for the RAV4.

The deal covers its battery module, electric motor, gear box and electronic parts. The price of the investment implies that Toyota sees the deal with Tesla as a limited arrangement instead of being an open-ended supply deal.

At the same time, Tesla is working on an electric family sedan too. This sedan, which is known as Model S, will be made on an assembly line in Fremont, Calif. This is the huge production plant that’s formerly known as New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., a 50-50 joint venture between Toyota and GM. This plant was where Toyota’s Corolla sedans and Tacoma pickups were built.

GM withdrew from NUMMI while it faced bankruptcy proceedings. Tesla is currently busy with retooling the NUMMI plant where the 2012 Model S will be built. Tesla’s powertrains will be made at a smaller Tesla plant in Palo Alto, Calif., and will be delivered to Woodstock where they will be installed on the Toyota units.

The second-generation Toyota RAV4 EV Concept has been unveiled at a 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show press conference sponsored by Toyota U.S.A., Inc.

The carmaker plans to manufacture 35 RAV4 EV Concept cars to be exhibited and evaluated all throughout 2011. The final commercial run vehicle is expected to hit the markets in 2012.

The fully-engineered Toyota RAV4 EV Concept should enjoy a range of 100 miles in ordinary road driving conditions, as well as in a wide variety of weather, climate and other conditions.

TMS president and chief operating officer Jim Lentz said that when they started work on the RAV4 EV, Toyota president Akio Toyoda wanted to use a new development model that includes Tesla's quick and streamlined approach. And so the engineers worked on the development style that they referred to as flexible and fast.

The Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Technical Center in Michigan spearheaded the new development model, which allowed for faster development times while also ensuring product quality. The team worked as it did on a mid-cycle product revision. The team fitted the RAV4 EV with a powertrain option, and redesigned the aesthetics and other minor changes.

Tesla built and supplied the battery and other related components that were up to par with Toyota’s specific and strict engineering specifications for quality, durability, and performance. On the other hand, Toyota took charge of development and manufacturing, as well as of the integration of the powertrain.

Lentz adds that they decided to focus on the customer experience from the very start, thinking of ways to deliver an unconventional product to the mainstream market. For them, it should be a mix between affordability and being interesting, plus it should offer daily convenience as well.

That also meant that the engineering team focused on drivability. They aimed to manufacture a vehicle that would feel like the traditional RAV4 when driven. For instance, the RAV4 EV is around 220 pounds heavier than the RAV4 V6, but it provides the same level of acceleration as the mainstream model.

The engineers worked hard with the major components to make sure that weight was optimally distributed. Apart from relocating some major components, the steering and suspension were also improved to ensure that better balance is achieved even with the added weight.

The demo is also currently being powered by a lithium metal oxide battery and runs at around the 30 kwh mark. This is going to change as soon as the product decisions and the business model have been finalized. As such, output ratings, volume projections and pricing are still not final, even with a 2012 market launch on the horizon.

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