Because the electric-car industry is relatively new it is still changing, sometimes drastically in a short period of time. One major automotive name that might fit into this "changing" category is world-leader Toyota.
Before we dig into why this major company has altered its path in the production of the electric vehicle (EV), we should point out that this discussion is not just about the Prius.
Toyota Motor Corp. has been working with another electric-car leader, Tesla, to develop "test versions" of battery-powered vehicles. Word from Tesla indicated that the company was planning to deliver two "prototype" vehicles to Toyota.
But did you know that there were Toyota electric cars on the road in the late 1990s?
Information from various histories of the Toyota effort shows that the first RAV4 EV was an all-electric version of the RAV4 sports-utility vehicle. These models were leased to various clients during a period that extended from 1997 to 2003. The best available records indicate that about 800 of these electric cars are still being driven (in 2010).
The original RAV4 electric vehicle was offered as a fleet vehicle on a rather limited basis. Local government agencies and businesses had the opportunity to lease a vehicle or two through about 2001. The company sold about 320 of the early RAV4 to the public in 2003. This early EV effort was eventually discontinued.
In July of 2010 the company announced it is working with Tesla to come up with a second version of the RAV4 EV. Toyota plans to have this second-generation RAV4 in production for 2012.
Information from Toyota and Tesla indicates that there may well be an electric version of the Corolla, a popular compact car produced by Toyota. However, industry observers feel that the RAV4 and the RX, both considered "light trucks" are best suited for the Tesla battery system.
And here's a photo of the interior equipment...
Tesla has produced a high-end, all-electric Roadster that carries a price tag of $109,000. Toyota's interest in being a major player in the EV industry led it to invest $50 million in Tesla, which is based in California.
One feature that future owners of Toyota electric cars should enjoy is acceleration. Add to this the extended range of Tesla's early vehicles and Toyota owners may have the best of all possible electric-car worlds.
Tesla is working on a lower-priced electric car that may offer up to 150 miles of driving before recharge. This model is expected to sell for about $40,000. If the Toyota cars have similar technology they could prove to be very popular.
Some of the people close to the Tesla/Toyota project have stated that the companies have made a great deal of progress in a very short time. This joint effort will certainly help Toyota maintain its worldwide position in the automotive industry, especially during a period when government agencies are putting a lot of pressure on the development of vehicles that don't use fossil fuels.
Different Battery Idea
One of the most interesting features of Tesla vehicles is the use of many small lithium-ion batteries rather than larger battery packs!
Until this time, Toyota and other car makers have made use of the larger batteries. But the Japanese company now says it will turn its focus on the idea of using thousands of smaller cells, as Tesla now does.
Part of the process will involve Panasonic, a company that is already working with Toyota to develop suitable lithium-ion battery cells for electric cars. Panasonic already produces two different types of batteries, one for hybrid cars and one for all-electric models. The company is working with Tesla to improve battery technology.
With all of this effort, Toyota is still working on its own version of an electric car and on batteries for electric vehicles. It may turn out that Toyota doesn't make use of the Tesla battery system.
Toyota Electric Vehicle Concept Car
Most people who follow the alternative-vehicle scene know about the Prius. In fact, many people who don't know a thing about cars except how to drive them know the Prius. It's a very popular hybrid vehicle from Toyota that has become one of the company's top sellers.
The latest version of the Prius has more horsepower from as slightly larger engine. This gives it better acceleration and smoother highway operation. Of course, the Prius is a gasoline/electric hybrid. But it does offer the equivalent of 50 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency.
Whether it is working in the hybrid sector of the industry or on all-electric cars, you can be sure Toyota electric cars will do whatever is necessary to stay near the top of the EV class.