Hybrid giant confirms it will enter EV market

Toyota and Tesla are to work together to produce an electric version of Toyota's RAV4 EV, the automakers announced July 16.

The vehicle is set to hit the US roads in 2012, according to a joint statement, and will be based on Toyota's RAV4 model with Tesla's electric powertrain.

Given Toyota's dominance of the hybrid market and Tesla's status as the only US automaker to have an EV in production and on the market, the announcement is likely to significantly increase pressure on Nissan, Mitsubishi and Chevrolet, all of whom will release electric vehicles in the US later this year.

The first prototype is already complete, according to Tesla, and further models will be delivered to Toyota later this year for evaluation ahead of a public release.

Reports have suggested that the vehicle could have a range of 150 miles (241 kilometers) and a price tag of $40,000 (€30,775), but details have not been confirmed by either company.

Tesla founder Elon Musk and Toyota boss Akio Toyoda originally confirmed a tie-up between their companies in May, saying that they would work together on the development of an electric vehicle.

Since then, rumors have persisted that it would be a RAV4, which once existed as an EV when Toyota was experimenting with the technology between 1997 and 2003 but was discontinued as Toyota's dominance in hybrid technology grew thanks to its star car, the Prius.

Nevertheless, the 1,575 RAV4 EVs that Toyota created were a hit with drivers, with many still in operation today and owners reporting that some of the fairly primitive NiMH battery packs have achieved over 240,000 km without needing a replacement.

Now, Toyota will be looking to improve on its original attempt at the RAV4, by integrating the newer powertrains produced by Tesla for its €84,000 Roadster sports car.