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Tesla Signs $60 Mln Deal With Toyota To Develop Electric Version Of RAV4!

Forgive me if this was posted already but I am so excited about this. I drive a 2002 RAV4 now...maybe I'll be able to afford a Tesla version someday!!!

RTTNews) - Electric car maker Tesla Motors, Inc. (TSLA: News ) said Wednesday that under a deal with automaker Toyota Motor Corp. (TM: News ), it will develop an electric powertrain system for the electric version of Toyota's sports utility vehicle, RAV4. Tesla said it will receive about $60 million from Toyota for the development services to be provided by it.

Palo Alto, California-based Tesla said that on October 6, it entered into the first phase of a contract services agreement with Toyota for the development of a validated powertrain system, including a battery, power electronics module, motor, gearbox and associated software, which will be integrated into RAV4's electric version. Tesla said it will receive the amount of $60 million in various installments during the term of the deal.

Tesla and Toyota previously entered into an deal to initiate the development of an electric powertrain system for the electric version of RAV4 and Toyota purchased $50 million of Tesla's common stock in a private placement transaction that closed immediately subsequent to the closing of Tesla's initial public offering in July 2010. The stake purchase in Tesla was made by Toyota so as to collaborate in battery-powered vehicles.

At that time, Tesla said it intends to market RAV4's electric version in the U.S. in 2012, and also said it would make prototypes by combining the RAV4 model with a Tesla electric powertrain. Tesla, which sells Roadster electric sports car, plans to produce and deliver a fleet of prototypes to Toyota for evaluation within this year.

Tesla bought the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc or NUMMI plant to built the Model S sedan and future Tesla vehicles. NUMMI, the vehicle assembler unit owned jointly by Toyota Motor and General Motors Co., was closed down in April, as GM pulled out of the JV for its post-bankruptcy restructuring.

Kinda old news (it was first put out when Tesla bought into the old NUMMI plant), but it always makes me question why it's being "developed" now? I mean, the electric RAV4 was designed and built in Cali back during/after the '90s. Don't they just need to let Tesla see what they did back then and let them upgrade/modernize it?

The Bloomberg News brief on this story, printed in the San Jose Mercury News today, ended with this sentence: "Toyota showed the electric RAV4 to U.S. dealers last week in Las Vegas." So at least one prototype has been delivered.

Vawikus, I think I can answer your question. My wife and I own both a 2003 RAV4-EV and a Tesla Roadster. The NiMH batteries in that generation of RAV4-EV are admirable for both their 100,000-mile cycle lifetime and their long calendar lifetime. However, patent limitations prevent those batteries from being sold in the US anymore. Toyota is turning to Tesla for their experience with Li-Ion batteries to get higher energy density for the new generation of RAV4.

In addition, I can attest that the Tesla drive system is better than the one in the RAV4-EV. The RAV4-EV will "cog" at low speeds, such as backing out of a garage, whereas the Tesla is completely smooth. The RAV4-EV also does not make a smooth transition between positive and negative torque as the accelerator pedal is held near the coasting point. In particular, in the 'B' mode that increases regen force, the jerking between acceleration and deceleration is very pronounced, enough that I can't leave the shift in that position.

What Tesla needs to develop for Toyota is an adaptation of the Tesla drive system to the RAV4 platform. That means adjusting the shape of the battery pack and power electronics to fit the available space, and probably revising at least the gearbox and perhaps the motor as well.

In addition to what Steve said (my wife and I also have a 2003 RAV4 and a Roadster):

RAV4 always charges all the way up, then the battery sags, which wastes electricity and hurts the battery. I prefer the Tesla method of only charging to 90% by default.

RAV4 uses inductive charging, with some smarts in and some out of the car. Tesla uses a conductive charger with smarts in the car, so it's easier to find a place to plug in.

RAV4 has an unmarked V meter, and a fuzzy analog SOC meter. Tesla has lots of nice digital information.

RAV4 won't start if your 12V battery is low (and in fact, it will stop running if your 12V gets low!). Tesla only has one battery.

So, as good as the RAV4 powertrain is, we much prefer the Tesla powertrain. But as good as the Roadster is, we much prefer the utility of the RAV4! We're excited about the new RAV4, although a little worried about all the weight it has gained over the years. We'll have to see what the range and price are like.

By the way, Tesla and Toyota had talked about putting a prototype together for study before (and Toyota invested $50M in Tesla), but the $60M development deal was new as of last week. It means that Toyota still likes Tesla's solution better than what they can do after seeing it...

Unless the electric powertrain of the new RAV4 SUV has a driver selected 4WD configuration, or better yet, a computer controlled all wheel drive system with a motor on each wheel, anyone who lives in an area that gets snow in winter will probably choose a conventional 4WD SUV, or a vehicle that has an AWD drive system, over any vehicle that is only two wheel drive. To design an electric drive SUV that is only two wheel drive would be writing off a huge market. Drivers that need a 4WD vehicle in winter, and those who go to the mountains for winter recreation would not settle for an SUV that is not 4WD. There is a prototype vehicle, in Japan, that has six wheels, with a motor on each wheel. Power to each wheel is computer controlled, depending on the traction available at each wheel. It is called the Elica (electric lithium ion car). The Elica was the idea of a Japanese college professor and was not designed to become a production vehicle. It shows, however, what can be done with an electric drive vehicle.

It can be done, but at what cost?

And please, don't tell me I NEED 4WD to handle snow. I've been driving in it for 20 years and I've NEVER needed 4WD to get to where I was going. Generally, I pass those 4WD vehicles while they're stuck in a ditch, wave merrily, and go on my way.

The eliica has eight wheels and eight motors. It was designed way back in 2003, and three years ago was supposed to cost $255K. Haven't heard much from them since. It is a long, low, and heavy car, and probably not designed to drive in the snow.

Like stated above 4wd is not needed in the snow as long as the driver is not ignorant. With tesla's leading traction control, it's even less necessary. I would be willing to bet the tesla rav4 2wd could go anywhere toyota's 4wd version can, and do it safer.

Why does it seem that many threads are now straying off topic to become an us vs. them arguement about AWD / 4WD?

What is important is that TM gather enough data to determine if there is sufficient demand to offer some AWD / 4WD options on their vehicles.

Similar market demand studies were done by Audi / BMW / MB Lexus / Infiniti / etc...these luxury performance manufacturers (for the most part) recognize that there is a viable market of AWD / 4WD versions of some / all of their products.

Let's agree to disagree on the AWD / 4WD issue & move on folks...I've been driving for 35 years ...You're not going to change my mind on this issue, I'm not going to change yours.

Blame ECam, he started this in several threads.

Jaffray: it's not just Ecam, it's the fact that several people here (on the forum) have already been thrashing out the notions concerning making AWD/4WD possible for the Model S platform, since there will be several other vehicles based off of it (including a Tesla built SUV that's NOT the RAV4).

Thus far, us 'homechair electronics buffs' have discussed a couple of different ways AWD/4WD could be done that differ from the ICE methods, but we ran into several snags, mostly around reduced range, and technology issues.

Ók Vawlkus, I hear you ;) ...but my point is that TM, through market research, needs to be able to determine on their own if there is enough demand to warrant an AWD / 4WD option on their own models.

Some here like AWD / 4WD, some don't...no problem...all we're talking about is an option here.

The Lexus 400h & replacement 450h (of which I've owned & driven both since 2005) offers a perfect solution for the non- transmission linked AWD option...a second electric motor propelling the rear motor when demanded by the vehicle's computer...it's only AWD on command, it has functioned very well for me for the last 5 years, it is already an electric solution, and it was designed & manufactured by Toyota with whom TM already has a good business relationship with...I view sharing /licensing ops & research with Toyota as a very good thing for TM.

Ah, but I don't believe they are sharing to that degree, it's just an arrangement where Tesla gets a factory, and Toyota gets it's RAV4 re-electrified.

The dual motor approach is one of the ones thrashed out in another thread. The trouble we ran into was the extra motor either needs a major speed controler upgrade, run the risk of having the two motors run at differing speeds, and either way a serious chunk of range taken away by the extra motor/electronics. We ran into a similar problem when we considered 4 'wheel hub' motors. Us homebrewers couldn't come up with a solution, since we don't have access to how Tesla's PEM functions, but they do know, and we're hoping they're taking what we've batted around and seeing what they can do.

Yes, Toyota and TM may not be sharing to this degree...for now...It does not preclude a future sharing / licensing agreements.

My point is that Toyota & TM already have a business relationship thus expanding the relationship is a logical next step.

I am not a technical person, so I will not venture in to the discussion about the speed controller...except to say that the Toyota system has worked perfectly since 2005 so this is not an insurmountable problem...

PopSci featured this as one of the cars it liked at the L.A. Auto Show. http://www.popsci.com/node/50261
Go to pic #9.

Vawlkus, Vawlkus, Vawlkus,...Anyone who has driven in snow and on ice (and I have for more than 30 years) knows that your story of passing 4WD vehicles that are stuck in the snow, while driving a 2WD vehicle is just pure BS. I, too, have seen many 4WD vehicles stuck in a snow bank, but that has much more to do with flatlanders thinking they can do 50mph with 6" of snow on the ground than the lack of capability of their 4WD vehicle. If you drive where the road is mostly flat and is cleared regularly by state or local snow removal equipment, you can probably get to where you are going with a two wheel drive vehicle. But if there are any hills or inclines that you must negotiate, with snow on the ground, you will get stuck, even with snow tires, driving a two wheel, rear wheel drive vehicle. Front wheel drive is much better but still not nearly as good as an AWD or 4WD vehicle. That is just plain fact. I just hope that the Tesla/Toyota Rav4 has 4WD capability.

Most of the people that whine a about features not available on a certain car, weren't going to buy it anyway, so I don't think car manufacturers care. This is especially true on limited production models such as the Tesla rav4. There will be plenty of buyers to snag every one produced, so who cares if they are going to be equipped with AWD.

Roblab, The Elica does have eight wheels, not six, and it is very low and heavy, so it probably would not be good in the snow. Not because of the AWD, but because of the weight and road clearance. But all of that is irrelevant to the point I am trying to make. The fact that a computer controlled AWD electric vehicle with eight wheels has been successfully engineered, an electric drive vehicle with power to only four wheels and enough road clearance to be able to negotiate a road covered in snow is definately possible. I don't think an electric drive SUV that does not have 4WD capability will sell in areas that get snow and ice in winter. I very much hope the designers of the Tesla/Toyota Rav4 take this into consideration.

Weight itself is not a problem in snow. There is two ways to get through deep snow, either go literally through by digging deep enough that tires contact solid surface where you can get grip, or go over it. First is achieved by heavy vehicle with narrow tires (tractors), second is achieved by low pressure toward snow with wide tires and low relative weight. Elica eight wheels could work quite well as second way of doing things, but that ground clearance is too small and wheel are too tiny and narrow for deep snow. Some APC-like vehicle build like Elica would be much better in snow.

OTOH deep snow is not something you have in roads, that is something you have off-road, 2WD with good tires works just fine in roads.

That said Rav4 should be 4WD vehicle. It says it in the name "4". I would feel betrayed if I buy a SUV with that name and it doesn't have 4WD. In fact I find every SUV without 4WD somewhat funny. Sport _utility_ vehicle. What's "utility" without 4WD? Looking at 2011 Rav4 specs it looks like basic model is 2WD car. I'm not impressed.

ECam, I've driven RWD, FWD, 4WD, and AWD cars in snow - also for over 30 years.

Yes, FWD is better. Yes AWD or 4WD is even better. But you most certainly can safely drive a RWD vehicle in the winter, as long as you have snow tires. All-season tires are marginal at best; you really want to have real snow tires.

And I've gotten stuck in a 4WD vehicle; it's a little harder to do but far from impossible. If the snow is high enough to lift the wheels off the ground, then you're stuck. In my experience the high bottom is more important than the 4WD in most snow conditions.

ECam: feel free to come up to Nova Scotia in a few months. I'll be happy to show you around. Better still, bring your AWD bucket and we'll see how well you do.

What's the difference between 4WD and AWD assuming the vehicle has four wheels?

There is some "mushiness" to how these terms are used, but here is how they are typically defined:

AWD systems have a center differential that allows the two axles to turn at different speeds. That allows you to leave the system on at all times. These are usually found in sedans and crossover SUVs, where convenience is more important than off-road performance.

4WD is typically used in off-road vehicles. They have simpler, very heavy-duty systems that work well for grinding through deep snow and mud. They don't have a differential between the front and back wheels, so if you try to turn a tight corner in 4WD mode on dry pavement they lock up and the truck grinds to a halt. Driving on dry pavement can damage the system. Typically they have a manual 2WD/4WD selector, plus a "low" setting that gives you ultra-high torque.

There are automatic 4WD systems, which switch on/off automatically, as well as "full time 4WD" systems, which have a locking center differential.

I was interested to read that so many people have so many different view concerning traction and transportation options. The ultimate success for any design rallies on the point that we all share the same vision and share the same technology. Educating drivers on the proper procedure and maintenance of car tires is very important, learn proper driving strategies according to road conditions are keys to surviving the track home. Some Car owners do not have the proper tires installed on their vehicles according to road and weather condition. The foot print created by each tire (surface contact) vary greatly. With the many different tire manufactures and rubber composite materials and various designs and models lead to this ambiguity. Our ability to drive on public roads weights heavily on my abilities and that of others technical competency and technical literacy. We need to agree as a society to set policy on tires and place real values on transportation technologies which is a public domain. A standard must be adopted if we are to realize that traction can mean so much to so many different people. We have the technology and must share it and adapt to it. I do appreciate this forum for it democratizes the process by sharing our point of views, they are the keys opening the doors to current decisions. Thanks. Albert

Chrysler knows how to build electric cars.
Chrysler builds the Jeep. Although ranked as one of the worst for reliability, some people really will drive nothing else.
Tesla does not build a jeep, or any other four wheel drive car. Many, many other young companies built cars for many years before they offered four wheel anything. Tesla will probably follow this same pattern: Whatever brings in the most profit.

So.
Write to Chrysler.

Douglas3, You can drive safely with a two wheel, rear wheel drive vehicle with snow tires, in some conditions. Where I live, when it snows heavily, you can not continue to drive on the highway in a two wheel drive vehicle without chains. There is "chain control" enforced by the highway patrol. Under these conditions, four wheel drive vehicles with snow tires are allowed and don't need chains. Where you live, you may be able to drive safely with a two wheel drive vehicle, provided that the roads are maintained (plowed regularly) and there are no hills or mountains. But if there are hills and snow on the ground, you will start to spin your rear wheels on even the slightest of inclines and will eventually get stuck. Spinning your rear wheels gives you marginal control, and is NOT safe.

Being a Canadian living in a pretty heavy snow area, I'm quite familiar with winter driving. It's not just the equipment, driving in those conditions is a learned skill. Spinning your wheels is a bad idea, yes, but there are plenty of other ways to get yourself into trouble.

The Tesla traction control technology is fantastic for this; as far as I can tell it is impossible to spin the wheels in the Roadster (unless you turn it off of course). I'm sure the Model S will be the same.

As for chains, yes, in some conditions they are necessary. But if you're in that domain I'd want them on a 4WD too. 4WD's don't stop any better than 2WD's.

Just a clarification, what exactly are "snow tires"? That's a term that doesn't directly translate to anything here. Requirement for chains in highways feels odd to me, so I feel that you lack decent winter tires completely.

On mountain roads in Switzerland you are occasionally not allowed to continue without chains. Even on the motorway ramps towards the St. Gotthard tunnel that can happen. In recent times only trucks were taken off the road and not allowed to continue until they had their chains mounted. That is a problem for the Tesla Roadster. In spite of what the manual says, there is so little room for chains that you could damage body or suspension. According to the shop where I had the winter tires (snow tires) mounted it was in their opinion too risky to try mounting chains.

To Timo: Winter tires have different profiles and rubber mix. They hold a lot better already on cold and wet roads, not only on snow. In Austria they are compulsory. In Switzerland they are enforced by insurances and legal practice, although not strictly compulsory. There are regular tests and ratings of the different brands in the press as e.g. here:
http://www.tcs.ch/main/de/home/auto_moto/tests/reifen.html

- Alfred

That's all? Different profile and rubber mix? If that is the case, then those are not the usual winter tires here, we call those "friction tires", and they pretty much suck in any place where you have ice. Usual winter tires here mean studded tires.

Timo, those studded (hard metal studs) tires are no more allowed in most places apart from the far North and some Alpine areas. These would indeed be a lot better on ice.


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