Toyota teams with Tesla to start building all-electric vehicles

In a joint venture, the two companies intend to start mass production of vehicles for availability by 2012.

Toyota Motor Corporation announced that is teaming up with Tesla Motors to develop electric vehicles, parts, and production system and engineering support. The two companies intend to form a team of specialists to further those efforts. Toyota will be investing $50 million to kick-start the deal. (Remember when cars could be kick-started?)

Tesla's all-electric Roadster Sport

Toyota introduced the first-generation Prius hybrid vehicle in 1997, and produced approximately 2.5 million hybrids in the twelve years since. Late last year, Toyota started lease of Prius Plug-in Hybrids, which can be charged using an external power source such as a household electric outlet. The company also plans to introduce all-electric vehicles into the market by 2012 separately from those produced in the Tesla partnership.

Presumably, the Tesla electric models would be targeted for the mass market with lower price points than Toyota's own offerings. According to the announcement, Tesla’s goal is to produce increasingly affordable electric cars to mainstream buyers. The company designs and manufactures electric vehicles and powertrain components. Up until this point, Tesla has been a high-end automaker, with about 1,000 of its all-electric high-performance Roadsters now out on North American roads. Tesla also says it is currently the only automaker in the U.S. that builds and sells highway-capable all-electric vehicles in serial production.

In a related bit of positive news, it was announced that production of the electric cars would take place at the Fremont, Calif., auto factory that Toyota shuttered earlier this year. Vehicle production is set to begin in 2012, and about 1,000 workers will be hired for the venture.

Tesla was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003 in Menlo Park, California, with the goal of producing all-electric sports cars. Another co-founder, Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, is CEO. Tesla is named after Nikola Tesla, who designed the first electric motor, along with launching today's electric power industry.

(Photo: Tesla's all-electric Roadster Sport. Credit: Tesla Motors)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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