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While Toyota had a RAV4 EV in the 90s that it developed on its own, it was decided that the new model aimed at the US market was too much of a challenge for the Japanese automaker to handle on its own. In 2010 an agreement was made to team up with Tesla Motors, a company with experience in a key field that was new to Toyota, lithium-ion batteries.

With a project timeline of under two years, the motto quickly became, Fast and Flexible, according to the chief engineer of the RAV4 EV, Greg Bernas. Toyota quickly determined that its engineering team in Japan while talented, would be too slow are too insulated for a fast-pace project like this.

Akio Toyoda, told Shigeki Terashi, who back in 2010 was head of engineering for Toyota USA, that it was now his project. He quickly named Bernas, a 20-year Toyota veteran and the man behind the Venza, as chief engineer.

Both companies began fearing that they were at risk of losing proprietary technology and production techniques. This combined with concerns over specifications. Toyota agreed to provide a list of specifications for Tesla to build to.

Tesla said it would do its best to try and meet the specs. Toyota countered that if they would not be met, they would not be buying parts from Tesla that were not up to snuff. Finally the idea of testing together without notebooks sprung forth. Both companies test products together and work together to solve any failures that occur. Neither company writes down notes so neither company is at risk for losing proprietary knowledge.

The two companies also had to come to agreements on cooling priorities for the vehicle. On a hot day, should the engine prioritize the passenger cabin or the battery pack? The passenger cabin is the priority until the battery becomes at risk but how does the vehicle alert the driver? All these issues had to be tackled but the RAV4 EV is now ready for production in Woodstock, Canada.

This may become the model for low-volume future Toyota products," Bernas said. He then added in partial-jest, "With the methodical Japanese method, this vehicle would never have come out."

[Source: Auto News]
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