Toyota to Pay Tesla $60M for Electric RAV4 Project

Tesla Motors (s TSLA) expects to reap about $60 million from Toyota (s TMC) for its work developing technology for an electric version of the Japanese automaker’s RAV4 SUV, according to a filing with financial regulators this afternoon.

This is the first time that an official dollar figure has been disclosed for the first phase of an alliance that Tesla has previously said could bring an electric RAV4 with a Tesla powertrain to the U.S. market by 2012. John Gartner, an analyst with Pike Research, commented today that the funds will be “helpful” for Tesla as it works to meet the cost-sharing requirements of its loans from the Department of Energy.

Tesla has long discussed plans to build up a powertrain supply business as an additional revenue stream to selling cars (and zero-emission vehicle credits). One of the conditions for Tesla to draw some of the DOE loan funds is signing up commercial customers for powertrain components.

The full $60 million for the RAV4 R&D project isn’t in the bag just yet: Tesla notes in its announcement today that Toyota will pay for the work in installments over the course of the agreement, and that the schedule and amount of these installments will be finalized within the next two months.

Tesla and Toyota first announced plans to collaborate electric vehicle projects back in May, and Tesla revealed in July that it planned to deliver two electric vehicle prototypes (both converted from current Toyota models) to Toyota by the end of the month. According to Tesla’s filing today, this latest agreement was finalized on October 6.

The electric RAV4 isn’t a wholly new concept for Toyota, which invested $50 million in Tesla following its IPO (giving it an ownership stake of approximately 3 percent). Toyota sold about 300 units of the plug-in SUV before discontinuing it in 2003. This time around, Toyota has said that it’s particularly interested in evaluating the potential benefits of Tesla’s battery pack design, which involves thousands of lithium-ion battery cells like those used in laptop computers, rather than larger cells and fewer of them.

According to Tesla’s announcement today, the company will be developing a battery, power electronics module, motor, gearbox and software for the RAV4 project. The company has beefed up its capacity for this type of work in recent months, buying the NUMMI plant in Fremont, Calif. (formerly the home of Toyota’s joint venture with General Motors (s GM)), and investing in the R&D and testing capabilities of its Palo Alto labs and factory.

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