According to a recent report from Reuters, Toyota has purchased a $50 million share in Tesla Motors, a move that not only will help Toyota improve its damaged reputation following a series of product recalls in late 2009 but will also help to catalyze the development of the American electric car market. The $50 million share is estimated to be 2.5% of Tesla's net worth, although this figure cannot be confirmed until Tesla goes public later this year.
As I have described earlier, some enormous barrier to the development of electric car market-share have been the lack of supporting infrastructure in the built environment, as well as a lack of government and major corporate support for green car development.
Toyota's partnership with Tesla dovetails with important developments in electric car innovation. One of the most significant has been the venture capital investment of Shai Agassi's Better Place in a network of electric vehicle charging stations in California and Hawaii. A second has been the "Electric Highway" already developed for Tesla vehicles along California's Highway 101.
In addition, President Obama's recent executive order to improve the fuel efficiency of America's car fleet by raising the CAFE standards to a combined 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, according to a New York Times article published 5/21/10, will provide a legislative impetus for green car infrastructure that can meet the new federal standards.
Specifically, this exciting new partnership between Toyota and Tesla Motors will take place at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc’ (aka Nummi) in Fremont, CA — a recently shuttered GM/Toyota auto plant which will re-open under the Tesla/Toyota partnership to produce the Model S sedans, according to Inhabitat. The Model S sedans have received federal tax exemptions, as the Department of Energy has encouraged green car development as part of the 2009 stimulus package (ARRA). The Model S is slated to have a range of 300 miles (after a 45 minute charge) and cost $49,900 after tax rebates when they are released in 2012. Tesla has the added benefit of a $465 million federal loan to build this lower-cost electric model.
This partnership will allow for a creative synergy between the two companies - with the major market share and production capacity of Toyota and the innovative expertise of Tesla - that could eventually lead Toyota to outpace Chevrolet and Nissan, whose electric models, the Volt and Leaf, respectively, are slated for release in Fall 2010. In addition, the re-opening of the Nummi plant in California will greatly contribute to the regional economy and produce an estimated 1,000 jobs.