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Toyota Reveals New RAV4 EV Battery Crossover

Maker remains cautious about electric propulsion but plans to expand work with Tesla.

by on Nov.18, 2010

Toyota hopes to work out some of the problems with the RAV4-EV by the time it reaches production.

As the legendary Yogi Berra might have said, it was “déjà vu all over again” for Toyota at the 2010 L.A. Auto Show, the company unveiling its new RAV4-EV.

Fourteen years ago, recalled the Japanese maker’s top American executive, Toyota came to the Los Angeles show to reveal another electric vehicle dubbed the RAV4-EV.  That model, which went on sale in 1997, was a flop on the market due to the limitations of the battery technology of that era.  But while CEO Jim Lentz and other Toyota executives said the latest lithium-ion batteries are making great technical strides, they took a cautious and conservative tone when describing the prospects of the latest model to bear the RAV4 EV nameplate.

Batteries were “the critical failing” of Toyota’s first battery-powered crossover, “and remain so,” cautioned Lentz, even as he unveiled the new model and revealed plans to begin fleet testing almost immediately.

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But by the time it actually reaches consumers, said Lentz, Toyota is betting there will be significant advances in the design of the latest RAV4-EV that could make it much more attractive to a mainstream market.  For that, credit little Tesla, the Silicon Vally-based start-up that launched its own battery-powered Roadster two years ago.