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Ford and Toyota begin work on joint electric car powertrain

Car manufacturers Ford and Toyota announced today that the companies will collaborate on a hybrid-electric car powertrain for sport utility vehicles and light trucks.

Ford and Toyota will jointly develop a rear-wheel drive electric powertrain and then introduce the powertrain in separate vehicle lines for each company. The light trucks and SUVs should arrive sometime later this decade, the companies said in an official announcement.

“The companies are likely looking to reduce cost of the drivetrain to grow the hybrid market, and they don’t see each other as much as direct competitors in the SUV/truck market as with light duty cars,” Pike Research analyst John Gartner told VentureBeat. “There is enough differentiation in the rest of the vehicle design that a common drivetrain with a competitor should not be problematic.”

Toyota is already collaborating with Tesla Motors, makers of the battery-powered Tesla Roadster electric car, on an all-electric RAV4. General Motors also manufactures hybrid-electric light trucks, including the Chevy Silverado. But most car manufacturers are focusing on smaller sedans and coupes. Some, like those from BMW and General Motors,  sport extended-range electric vehicle powertrains, but most are hybrid engines that use gas and electric motors in parallel.

“Since it’s aimed specifically at rear-wheel drive, it is probably something for the F-150/Expedition and Tundra/Sequoia size vehicles,” Pike Research analyst Dave Hurst told VentureBeat. “That would be filling a gap vs. General Motors and its Silverado/Tahoe hybrids.”

The companies did not indicate whether the powertrains they are developing would be extended-range electric vehicle powertrains, which are becoming increasingly popular with manufacturers, or traditional hybrid-electric powertrains like the ones that appear in the Toyota Prius. Extended-range electric vehicles use an electric motor to power the car for a certain distance — usually between 25 and 50 miles — before switching on a gas-powered motor to recharge the battery.

Tesla Motors is also working on a pure battery-powered electric sport utility vehicle called the Model X. The company raised an extra $210 million in June to fund development of the Model X and the Model S, its upcoming battery-powered sedan. The company plans to unveil that electric car in December, with the Model S coming out sometime later this year.

Toyota was an early entrant in the hybrid-electric car market. The company released its first hybrid car, the Prius, in 1997 and has sold 3.3 million of the car since its release. Tesla Motors also provides Toyota with powertrain systems that include a battery, charging system, inverter, motor, gearbox and associated software that are deployed in Tesla’s current fleet.

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