Back in May, Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla to build an electric vehicle partnership, and it seems the fruits of that partnership are already beginning to appear. Tesla said it is working on two electric vehicle prototypes for the Japanese automaker.
"Since our announcement in May, Toyota and Tesla engineering teams have made a lot of progress in a short amount of time, and it is exciting to start seeing some initial results," JB Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer, told Bloomberg in an email. Straubel added that Tesla signed an agreement to provide Toyota with two electric vehicle prototypes by the end of July.
According to Straubel, Tesla is fitting an electric drive system and one of its battery packs to two existing Toyota models. Tesla's lithium-ion battery pack currently fitted to the Roadster is unique, using around 6800 lithium-ion cells typically seen in computer batteries, while automakers such as Chevrolet, Nissan, and Toyota are working on battery packs with larger cells. Toyota Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki says that Toyota will study the prototypes to see if Tesla's battery pack approach offers any advantages.
"By having Tesla we think our omni-directional approach is becoming even more robust," said Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation president. "How they use batteries, how we use batteries, how the vehicles are used, there are many things we can share in these areas."
Neither Tesla nor Toyota has given any specifics on the models being used or key technical specifications, such as target range. Toyoda said his company will provide updates "at each stage of development" and clarified that the Tesla project is separate from the electric city car Toyota is developing for sale in 2012.
All we know for now is that the prototypes are indeed being developed for battery research. Stay tuned as Toyota provides us with updates as the vehicles are developed, and for a possible reveal at the end of July.