Tesla got a great deal on the NUMMI plant in its deal with Toyota this year, but what does Toyota get out of it? At the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, Toyota let us know, pulling the wraps off of its RAV4 EV Concept powered by Tesla. However, the EV wasn't the production-bound model that many were expecting. Rather, what we were shown was more of a stepping stone to a more complete vehicle that may come later.
To call the RAV4 EV a glorified test mule would be understating things a bit. Then again, the concept is built using an off-the-shelf RAV4 chassis and a slightly modified Tesla power train that also uses borrowed components from the automaker's Roadster. Externally, there are only a few aesthetic changes to differentiate the concept from petrol-burning examples. The EV gets a unique front bumper that features a closed-off and smoothed-over grill opening made possible by the electric power train's reduced need for cooling, LED running lights, and EV specific graphics and badging. In the cabin, electric vehicle-specific instrumentation and a button actuated drive selector yanked straight out of a Tesla Roadster let drivers know this is no standard RAV4.
Toyota claims that the RAV4 EV will boast a 100-mile range under real-world conditions. Thirty-five examples of the EV Concept will be built and run over the next year to confirm that claim and work out any kinks in the vehicle. Once testing is concluded, Toyota will begin work on a third-generation of the RAV4 EV--who remembers the lead acid battery-powered first generation?--which will feature further styling and drive system changes and the potential for more widespread production.