Recently, the EV press, including Charged, has been reporting that Toyota seems to be placing all its chips on fuel cells, and abandoning efforts to develop battery-electric vehicles. However, comments by Elon Musk at Tesla’s first-quarter shareholders’ meeting imply that there may be more to the story.
In answer to a question about competition from “fool cells” as Elon calls them, he said that Toyota’s decision to allow its battery deal with Tesla to expire wasn’t made because the company has lost interest in batteries (seen here around 26:30).
“Talks with Toyota didn’t really fall through,” said the Prophet of Palo Alto. “We were just coming to the end of the electric RAV4 program, and Toyota was interested in doing a high-volume deal for battery packs and powertrains, but we’re just not in a position to be able to supply them. So we agreed to put things on hold for now, and circle back maybe in a year or two, once we alleviate the cell supply constraint.”
This is a car of a different color, and raises some interesting questions (none of which Toyota is likely to answer at the moment). Was Tesla’s inability to supply batteries in volume part of the reason for Toyota’s pivot to fuel cells? Or does the Japanese giant still harbor plans for a serious battery-electric vehicle? If so, what is that vehicle? It seems unlikely that the company is interested in expanding production of the RAV4 EV – it has done no discernable marketing for the compliance car, which has sold fewer than 2,000 units since its September 2012 debut.
If Tesla had the capacity to build more battery packs right now, would we be writing about the 2016 Lexus EV?