Toyota, Tesla Said to Prepare Electric RAV4, RX Prototypes

Toyota Motor Corp. and Tesla Motors Inc. will develop battery-powered test versions of the Japanese carmaker’s RAV4 and Lexus RX in the first stage of a partnership in electric vehicles, a person familiar with the matter said.

Tesla said July 10 that it will deliver two prototypes vehicles to Toyota this month without identifying the models. While Toyota also aims to test an electric Corolla compact car, the RAV4 and RX light trucks are better suited to the weight of Tesla’s battery pack, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the vehicles haven’t been announced yet.

Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda said last week the partnership with Tesla, maker of the $109,000 electric Roadster, is the first of several the Toyota City, Japan-based company wants to pursue in advanced auto technologies. Toyota, the world’s largest seller of hybrid autos, bought a $50 million stake in Palo Alto, California-based Tesla this month.

“We anticipate range and acceleration exceeding that of other announced electric vehicles of this class,” Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla, said today in an e-mailed message. He declined to discuss project details.

Keisuke Kirimoto, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Toyota, said he couldn’t confirm the models. Toyota bought its stake in Tesla July 2, he said.

‘Cost Advantage’

The target for a model developed with Tesla would be for a car that costs about $40,000 with 150 miles (240 kilometers) of driving range per charge, the person familiar with the plans said.

“Toyota and Tesla engineering teams have made a lot of progress in a short amount of time,” JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technology officer, said in a July 10 e-mail message.

Toyota’s American depositary receipts, each representing two ordinary shares, rose 13 cents to $71.20 at 9:44 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares were unchanged at 3,120 yen today in Tokyo trading. Tesla, which listed shares last month, rose 42 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $17.82 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

Carmakers are under pressure from regulators to develop models that use little or no petroleum and emit fewer gases linked to global warming.

Unlike Toyota, Nissan Motor Co., and other companies readying battery models, Tesla vehicles use thousands of the same type of small lithium-ion battery cells that power laptop computers.

Panasonic Venture

Toyota Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki told reporters Friday in Nagoya, Japan, that the company wants to study that approach to see if it has advantages over using larger types of battery cells.

Panasonic Corp., which has a joint venture with Toyota that makes nickel-metal hydride batteries for hybrid autos and lithium-ion batteries for plug-in models, said in January it would work with Tesla to develop modified lithium-ion cells for use in electric cars.

“Since Tesla didn’t develop its battery pack from scratch, there’s a cost advantage,” said Hiroshi Ataka, an analyst at consulting company IHS Global Insight in Tokyo.

Nissan, Japan’s third-largest carmaker, plans to start selling its Leaf electric car in the U.S. and Japan later this year. General Motors Co., the Detroit-based carmaker planning an initial public offering, will also introduce its Chevrolet Volt plug-in car in the U.S. late this year.

Toyota’s project with Tesla is separate from a previously announced electric car Toyota aims to sell by 2012, Toyoda said last week.

“While Toyota may be studying Tesla’s technology, Toyota has been researching its own electric car batteries, so it may be unlikely to use Tesla’s,” Ataka said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Tokyo at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.