Toyota Motor's (TM) recent $50 million investment in electric-car upstart Tesla Motors (TSLA) is already paying dividends. Tesla reportedly will ship two prototypes, based on Toyota's RAV4 sport utility vehicle and Lexus RX crossover, to the Japanese automaker later this month.
The vehicles are the first two battery-powered models jointly developed by the two companies, Bloomberg News reported, citing an anonymous source familiar with the matter. Toyota is also eying an electric version of its popular Corolla compact sedan, but the RAV4 and RX models are better suited to the weight of Tesla's battery pack, the source said.
The target numbers for a Toyota model jointly developed with Tesla would be for a car that costs about $40,000 with 150 miles of driving range on each charge, the person familiar with the plans said.
"Toyota and Tesla engineering teams have made a lot of progress in a short amount of time," JB Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer, said in a July 10 e-mail to Bloomberg.
Toyota officials last week said the company is preparing to move to other alternative fuel technologies to ensure its future viability. Toyota's investment in Tesla, maker of a $109,000 electric roadster, is just the first such partnership the world's largest automaker is pursuing, company President Akio Toyoda said Friday in Japan. "Collaboration with other partners is an important part of the future of Toyota," he said.
Toyota, the world's largest maker of hybrid vehicles, is looking at options beyond gas-electric technology, such as hydrogen fuel-cells, biodiesel and other biofuels. Toyota is also examining the use of smaller, low-cost lithium-ion batteries, such as those used by Tesla, rather than the large, expensive ones that are currently used in electric-vehicle technology.
Shares in both companies fell fractionally in trading Friday in New York. Tesla, which began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market just last month, fell 6 cents to $17.40 a share.
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