Posted by: Jerry Garrett | August 4, 2012

An Electric Vehicle People Might Actually Like

The $51,000 2013 RAV4 EV (Courtesy, Toyota)

Toyota and Tesla have unveiled the RAV4 EV, a battery-powered small sport utility vehicle that is the result of a joint development project.

Just 2,600 of them will be built over the next three years (although more could be made, if demand warrants, officials admitted). The vehicle, initially sold only in urban areas of California, will be offered for sale beginning later this summer at a price of $51,000. Some buyers may qualify for tax rebates of up to $10,000 against the purchase price.

The vehicle is meant to comply with California’s zero emissions vehicle mandate, but Toyota and Tesla each say the RAV4 EV is meant to be much more than a “compliance vehicle”. A lot of time, effort and money has been put into the development of it.

All-electric range of up to 170 miles.

Tesla has a $100-million contract to supply the vehicle’s electric motors, power electronics, its proprietary lithium-ion battery packs, single-speed gearboxes and necessary software. Those components, the companies said in press materials, are very similar to those in Tesla’s new Model S sedan.

Indeed, the Model S and RAV4 EV will be priced nearly the same. The RAV4 platform, supplied by Toyota from its gasoline-powered version of the RAV4, offers additional utility and cargo capacity.

It also can operate on normal and sport power settings. Normal allows 218 pounds-feet of torque, sport 273. Top speed in normal mode is 85 m.p.h.; in sport, speed capability is increased 100 m.p.h. In sport mode, it will make the sprint from a standstill to 60 m.p.h. in seven seconds, Toyota calculated. “Conservative” range on a single charge is 100 miles, although by using settings – designated as eco-high or eco-low, the range could be extended to as much as 170 miles.

Helpful telematics, like driving range overlays.

The RAV4 EV has a surprisingly high level of sophistication. Toyota took the lead in the partnership when it came to refinement, and put their best people on it. It think it is safe to say no EV or even “extended-range EV” like the Chevrolet Volt has the RAV4 EV’s level of refinement. Great telematics in this car.

Electric vehicles that have been released prior to the RAV4 EV all seem to have some major stumbling block to consumer acceptance: price, performance (or lack thereof) and range. The RAV4 EV may change some people’s minds.

Jerry Garrett

August 4, 2012

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