Published on May 21st, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


Tesla and Toyota to Collaborate on Building the Affordable Electric Car

May 21st, 2010 by  

Palo Alto-based Tesla is the only company currently building real four- wheeled electric cars in the US that can go at freeway speeds (and much faster). Its plan has always been to leverage the initial luxury Roadster into funding increasingly affordable models  – and it has hit all its goals so far. With a new affiliation with Toyota, Tesla moves one step closer to that goal.


Toyota is investing $50 million in Tesla, and the two will cooperate on developing electric vehicles, parts, production systems and engineering support. California’s Governor Schwarzenegger told the Sacramento Bee some of the details during an environmental event at Google headquarters in Mountain View.

“Today is a very exciting day for me because … I am also going over to the Bay Area to talk about Tesla and Toyota forming a partnership, where they take one of the Toyota cars and make them electric,” Schwarzenegger said.

“And again, they’re going to do that here in California,” he added. “Because in California, we have the laws in place, the laws are consistent and this is why one company after the other is coming into our state and producing those electric cars, and doing innovative stuff with solar, innovative stuff with windmills.”

Till now Toyota has shown very little interest in electric vehicle development, understandably perhaps, preferring to rest on its laurels with the Prius: When you own the market leader in hybrid technology, why rock the boat.

It really dropped the ball on its own original 120 mile range RAV4 EV; developed in response to tough legislation in California, letting the remaining few of these amazing vehicles  languish in the hands of Plug-in America EV aficionados like Marc Geller till now. The company never leveraged the goodwill that that vehicle created.

“I guess our problem was, we built too good of an electric vehicle,” is how Toyota national service technology manager Gary Smith famously put it. As far back as 2008, customers were approaching Toyota dealers and making completely unauthorized  deposits on prospective EV production. Only after years of pressure from groups like Plug-in America, and numerous conversions has the company begun its own Plug-in Prius test and its first few solar charging stations near its factory.

But perhaps its recent brake troubles have woken up the sleepy giant, which is fortunate.

A recent study found that consumers would still prefer to buy an electric vehicle from Toyota – or Ford or Honda – none of whom are blazing any EV trails – rather than Nissan or GM, who are just coming out with the LEAF, and the Volt, respectively, this year.

Image: RAV4 EV

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • Colby Fahie

    Good luck everybody! – I will come back again. Are you on facebook or twitter? Will like to follow you.


  • @Susan, fair enough, I agree that more RAV4-EV’s should be on the road just like many other EV’s. Marc is certainly using his RAV4-EV as a daily driver so it’s not like the thing is sitting idle in his driveway. There are other RAV4-EV’s in use by owners. I don’t think it’s correct to say the existing RAV4-EV’s are “languishing” as that word implies that the existing ones are being misused … what’s being misused is the knowledge of how to build EV’s.

    • Oh, no, these robust heirloom-quality EVs are not being misused. It’s just that there’s so few of them!

  • Languishing? You’re saying the RAV4-EV’s are “Languishing” when they’re in the hands of regular folk like Marc Geller? What planet are you living on? Isn’t it a great thing that a few of the RAV4-EV’s escaped the crushing fate that Toyota had in mind for them? Isn’t it a good thing what Marc Geller (and others) has been doing to raise awareness that EV’s can be successful useful vehicles?

    • One is in the hands of Marc Geller. The rest of us need one too. 🙂

  • juangault

    I’m waiting for the electric car. I don’t like using gasoline. But natural gas is acceptable. I see the trash trucks in my area are now using LNG, not just CNG. If power plants were running on natural gas, and it was desirable to run the generation equipment at a steady level, refrigeration of LNG could be a storage mechanism for the excess energy generated at night. For safety with regular consumers, the LNG could be stored within a liquid nitrogen shell, which has a boiling point about 30 degrees lower than LNG. All this would power a generator that would power a motor that would spin the wheels of the car. Maybe if a bloom box can be set up to start and stop reliably, the internal combustion could be left out, along with the long range batteries. Sounds expensive, I know. Maybe it’ll be introduced the day gasoline tops $10 a gallon.

  • Christof

    Good to see that Toyota might be waking up on EVs.

    Honda is definitely dragging its feet on EVs — and, as a result, will lose this longtime Honda owner (18 years with a 1992 Acura Integra I bought off the lot). In fact, Honda will lose more than me, as the comments from eight current Honda owners on an open letter I recently wrote to Honda attest –>

    However, it’s not my understanding that Ford is a laggard on EVs. The Focus BEV is scheduled to come out in 2011 and Ford has been doing a fair amount of promoting of it so far.

Back to Top ↑