|The RAV4 EV demonstrator. Click to enlarge.|
Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, unveiled the second-generation Toyota RAV4 EV demonstrator vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Toyota will build 35 of these Phase Zero vehicles—essentially converted RAV4s—for a demonstration and evaluation program through 2011. Tesla Motors is supplying the battery and other related components. TMS aims to have a fully re-engineered RAV4 EV (Phase One vehicle) on the market in 2012, said Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer, TMS.
Lentz said that the Phase One demonstrator is consistently achieving a 100-mile (161 km) range, based on actual road driving patterns under a wide range of climates and conditions. The final driving range of the 2012 Phase One vehicle will depend on many factors still being considered, not the least of which is battery size and design, as it relates to useable power.
When we decided to work together on the RAV4 EV, President Akio Toyoda wanted to adopt a new development model that incorporated Tesla’s streamlined, quick-action approach. The result was a hybrid—a new decision and approval process and a development style that our engineers refer to as “fast and flexible”. Led by our Toyota Technical Center in Michigan, it is a model that has helped reduce development time… without compromising product quality.
They have accomplished this by approaching this project as they would a mid-cycle “major-minor” product change. To be more specific, midway through a generation, we begin with a fully engineered current-generation RAV4 to which we are adding a major powertrain option, along with minor feature and cosmetic changes.
While Phase Zero vehicles are basically converted RAV4s, the Phase ONE vehicles we plan to bring to market in 2012 will be thoroughly re-engineered, Toyota RAV4 EVs.—Jim Lentz
|RAV4 EV mule undercarriage. Click to enlarge.|
A large part of the development team’s focus on the customer experience targeted driveability. In this case, the end goal is a vehicle with driveability characteristics as close to the conventional RAV4 as possible. For example, the demonstration vehicle weighs approximately 220 pounds (100 kg) more than the current RAV4 V6 yet it will accelerate from zero to sixty nearly as quickly.
This added weight factor required significant retuning of major components and a prioritized focus on weight distribution. Not only were suspension and steering modified significantly, major components needed to be relocated to better balance the increased mass of the battery pack.
The demonstration vehicle Toyota is currently testing is powered by a lithium metal oxide battery with useable output rated in the mid-30 kWh range. However, many decisions regarding both the product, as well as the business model, have not been finalized. Battery size and final output ratings, as well as pricing and volume projections of the vehicle Toyota plans to bring to market in 2012, have not been decided.
As for a final assembly location, Toyota is considering many options and combinations. The basic vehicle will continue to be built at its Canadian production facility in Woodstock, Ontario. Tesla will build the battery and related parts and components at its new facility in Palo Alto, Calif. The method and installation location of the Tesla components into the vehicle is being discussed.
In the six years of its run, Toyota was able to lease or sell, only 1,484 RAV4-EVs. Enthusiasts loved it. Mainstream buyers…not so much...Back then…price and convenience proved to be critical success factors…and they remain so today. But much has changed in the last few years. Most importantly, the growing level of awareness that sustainable mobility will come at a cost that must be shared by the automakers, government and the consumer.
Toyota’s approach to sustainable mobility focuses on the world’s future reliance on mobility systems tailored to specific regions or markets, rather than individual models or technologies. It acknowledges that no one technology will be the winner and that a mobility system in Los Angeles will probably look very different from one in Dallas or New York or London or Shanghai.
Toyota’s comprehensive technology strategy is a portfolio approach that includes a long-term commitment to hydrogen fuel cells, plug-in hybrids and battery-electrics, all driven by the further proliferation of conventional gas-electric hybrids, like Prius as its core technology.—Jim Lentz