Rumor: Toyota's Bill Reinert goes from Tesla skeptic to RAV4 EV manager

The recent electric car tie-up between Tesla Motors and Toyota might be driving one person crazy. He's Bill Reinert, a good guy who's awesomely outspoken. We've tried to get Reinert's personal views on the matter directly, to no avail, but we can put together some of Reinert's quotes to try and paint a picture of what he's thinking about future Toyota-Tesla electric vehicles. In July 2009, for example, Reinert said:
Lithium-ion batteries are too expensive by at least an order of magnitude. They're not energy-dense enough. And we generate a lot of our electricity from coal. I don't think Shai [Agassi, of Better Place] is being disingenuous. I think he really believes what he's saying. I see it all the time from those Palo Alto types. They think the whole world is like a computer company, and they're always trying to recreate the dot-com economy. You see exactly the same mind-set with Tesla. It's all going to work out. It worked out with eBay. It worked out with SAP. But transportation is a different world. I mean, Shai's bragging about driving an electric RAV4 with a seventy-mile range. How many of your friends are going to buy that car?
In July 2010, Reinert reportedly told the Energy Tribune something similar.
Bill Reinert, the manager of Toyota's advanced technology group (he was also one of the lead designers of the Prius), told me last month that the market for electrics and plug-in hybrids remains a "niche of a niche." Reinert says potential buyers for those vehicles are a small subset of those who are inclined to buy a Prius. Reinert said that hybrid vehicles now account for about 3 percent of total car sales in the U.S.
Of course, Reinert now might need to eat his words. Darryl Siry agrees that Reinert is in an interesting bind right now and has heard that Reinert is Toyota's new head of the Toyota/Tesla RAV4 EV conversion project. Siry asks:
Will Bill Reinert be a convert to the Tesla technological approach, or will he be a reluctant company man? The back story on this is fascinating, and I can't wait until the stories are told in the course of time. If Akio Toyoda really wants to drive Bill nuts, he'll make him collaborate with Shai Agassi and Better Place next.
More information on Toyota's Plug-in Prius program can be found here.

[Source: Energy Tribune, Darryl Siry]

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