Green Update–>Toyota and Tesla Tango

Toyota FT-EV

There are a lot of confusing stories afloat regarding Toyota and Tesla joining forces to make new environmentally friendly cars. Let’s see if we can make some sense of them.

First announced (last week) is a likely production version of the FT-EV concept (above), which will go live as the EV Scion iQ in 2012. The gas-powered iQ has seen some success in Europe, cutting into Smart sales.

The EV version will be a big test for Toyota’s co-development with Primearth (formerly Panasonic EV Energy) of large-format lithium-ion (l-i) cells. The EV Scion iQ should have a range of approximately 50 miles.

With Tesla, Toyota is working on employing a different format, a small-cell l-i battery pack, as used in Tesla’s Roadster and in laptops. Tesla stated last week that it would deliver two prototype cars to Toyota this month. Automotive News confirms (as do other sources) that the Tesla batteries will be fitted to the Toyota RAV4 and the Lexus RX series cars.

This is a big deal for several reasons. First, collaboration between the two firms is taking hold quicker than most anticipated. Both companies will clearly benefit. Second, testing the mules will determine whether Toyota goes with large- or small-format l-i batteries—a major commitment. Finally, Tesla (and Toyota’s $50 million stake in it) is part of Toyota’s plan to emerge from the doldrums and establish itself firmly as the leader in electric automotive technology.

Development of the Prius line continues, as the plug-in hybrid’s (above) demo-and-testing program continues with some 150 cars in the U.S., along with some interesting partners. There is talk of other body styles beyond the five-door hatch – maybe some kind of “people-mover” and a two-door.

Do you think Toyota can move out from under its recall-driven safety/quality cloud into the sunshine of electro-tech leadership?

—jgoods

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2 Comments

  1. I would argue that Toyota has been in an electro/tech ledership position since the Prius came out. Partnering with Tesla is a logical next step in expanding its leadership in the developing EV field. I’m excited to see what comes of this partnership. An electric RX is intriguing…

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