Electric drive lessons learned the hard way by Tesla Motors have made it possible for Toyota, a pioneer in both battery-electric and hybrid drive technology, to bring its new all-electric RAV4 to market in record time.
Though not confirmed by Toyota, it is pretty obvious that the makers of the Prius, the hybrid drive market leader, got a little nervous in 2009 to 2010 when it became obvious competition was eminent — in car market time — from Nissan’s all-electric LEAF and GM’s plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volt.
Toyota’s solution for getting back in the race quickly was to make a deal with Tesla. Inked in 2010, the deal allowed Toyota to put a Tesla-designed and -produced battery and electric powertrain into its very popular RAV4, which, as chronicled in the now infamous Who Killed the Electric Car? documentary, was one of the pioneering vehicles that almost led the unrealized electric car revolution of the late 1990s.
Though the Tesla-Toyota collaboration did not get the new RAV4 to market before the LEAF and Volt hit showrooms last fall, it got it there in twenty-two months, record time in an industry where new models typically take about five years to get from planning to the showroom floor.