It's been about two years since Tesla and Toyota announced a partnership, and we're now seeing the first major fruit of their labor. The RAV4 EV, the modern market's first all-electric SUV, will land in dealerships in the coming months. Toyota used the 26th annual Electric Vehicle Symposium in Los Angeles to launch the production model.
So far, the electric vehicle market has been dominated by small cars like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-Miev. The RAV4 is the first product of the modern EV era to package electric technology in a larger SUV package. According to Toyota, the RAV4 EV doesn't even sacrifice space for its electric components, touting the same available cargo capacity as the standard gas-powered RAV4.
As anyone that follows electric cars knows, there are two things that really hold the market back: range and price. The RAV4 is definitely no exception. In fact, at a starting price of US$49,800 (before delivery fees), it's more a poster child for high EV premiums. The RAV4 EV's range, which has yet to be confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, is estimated at 100 miles (161 km) - pretty much the industry standard at this point.
Toyota partnered with Leviton for the RAV4's officially approved charging equipment. With the available 240-volt charger, the RAV4 will get fully juiced up in about six hours. It will also come with a 120-volt charge cord for use as a back-up.
Like the demonstration vehicle, the production RAV4 EV's styling includes subtle distinctions from the standard RAV. It has a new front-end, new LED headlamps and taillamps, electric badging, redesigned side mirrors, and a distinct rear spoiler in back. Many of those changes were aimed at aerodynamically optimizing the RAV4's body to get the most range and performance. Toyota says it has the lowest drag coefficient of any SUV.
Toyota will launch the RAV4 in California by the end of the summer. Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego will serve as the initial launch markets. It plans to sell approximately 2,600 models over the first three years.
It's good to see the electric car market getting more diverse, but for the kind of money that you'd need to invest in a RAV4 EV, you might be better off waiting for the Tesla Model X, which will have better performance, more range and an all-wheel-drive option.