Toyota debuts US$50,000 all-electric RAV4 in Los Angeles


May 8, 2012

The RAV4 EV is the first all-electric SUV available in the United States

The RAV4 EV is the first all-electric SUV available in the United States

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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.

The RAV4 EV may not offer the range of its gas-powered sibling, and its front-wheel-drive layout won't give you the same utility as the gas model's available four-wheel drive, but Toyota says that other performance metrics are quite comparable. The RAV4 EV has two driving modes - Sport and Normal. Sport mode opens up a 0-to-60 mph (97 km/h) time of seven seconds and a 100 mph (161 km/h) top speed. Normal mode sacrifices some of that performance to better direct battery power toward driving range. The154-hp powertrain behind those numbers was developed by Tesla.

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.

Source: Toyota

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

Interesting article. I think you're right on with the assessment that price and range are holding back sales. The Tesla S is a beautiful car, and I hope the Model X will appeal to some consumers willing to spend ~$50k for an SUV/Crossover. But ultimately I know I couldn't afford either auto :-( and I suspect many Americans will these are comparable to traditional combustion or hybrid autos with respect to price and range.

Have you happened to see any innovations or new developments in battery technology that would decrease cost and/or extend range? Do you think we're near being able to develop a battery-powered auto that offers comparable range and price to gasoline fueled autos?

While researching BigInScience's upcoming book "Rush: Science and Technology in our Acceleration Age," I was deeply impressed with Tesla (particularly their early model the Roadster). For those who think battery-powered autos are inferior in performance, check out some of the Roadster drag races on Youtube (the Roadster accelerates 0-60mph in under 4 seconds, quicker than many sports cars). But ultimately the Roadster is not entirely practical as I'm certain the range is vastly inferior to petrol-powered autos under these aggressive driving conditions.

I believe battery-powered autos will become more prevalent in the upcoming decade (possibly as a bridge to hydrogen fuel cell powered autos). It'll be interesting to see if more major auto manufacturers team up with smaller innovative companies like Tesla (I'm certain they will).


Just how many people can afford a $50k car? This is ridiculous for pricing alone. There are many people who have houses that cost less than that because that is all they can afford. These wacko green energy nuts need to be reeled in. Where will all the electricity come from if we go all electric? If you were able to scrape together $50k for the car up front, how do you afford the $12k - $20k battery replacement in the future? Is that supposed to be from the money saved from gasoline/diesel? This is pure insanity.


People keep talking about range being a limiting factor for EV's - it's not range, but charge time. If EV's charged in 5 minutes, then we could put coin/card-op charging stations in at Rest Stops (they already have Vending Machines) and many would be more than happy with a 100-200 mile range (and being able to charge in our garage the rest of the year. Alternately drop the price to "2nd car" price range (15-20k), put the range at 50 miles (25 miles round trip) and offer a lot of options to upconvert - basically the idea behind plug-in hybrids.

Then again, the LEAF just stopped selling out on pre-orders after more than a year of production, so maybe we are making all these "problems" up.

Charles Bosse

re; BigInScience

Tire burning acceleration has never been an electric cars weakness. The problems with electric cars are the pathetic range they deliver, that as the battery ages the range diminishes, the time it takes to recharge (even assuming a 20 minute 80% charge you only get 40 minutes of travel per hour on the highway.), the effect the heavy batteries have on handling.


I have a 2001 all electric RAV4...the technology is from in 16 years the same car takes longer to charge and has less Toyota and Tesla?


Is this really much better than the NiMh RAV4 Electric of the 1990's?

It had 100 to 120 miles range. Some of those have achieved over 150,000 miles (240,000 km) on the original battery pack.


William Volk

Let me know when it's priced under $30,000. If I am still living, I'll buy one.


@Charles Bosse Sadly we will never have a 5 minute, 200 mile charge for a family auto. You just cant get the electrons into the batteries that fast. 200 miles requires about 50kWhrs of energy so for a 5 minute charge, the 'vending machine' would have to provide 600kW of power. I wouldn't want to be anywhere within a hundred yards of such a device while in use! Typically you can charge electric car batteries at about 20-25 miles of range per hour. Yes you can charge faster with DC but you'll be stressing the batteries, reducing their life. The real answer to the range issue is battery swap - with that you can have your 200 mile 'fill-up' in just a couple of minutes. However, if you ask an EV owner if they worry about range the most likely answer is no - they just work around the range issue. One Leaf owner I know is driving nearly 2000 miles per month - he just uses the car for what it's good at - which is about 98% of all driving trips.


Maybe it is better to wait for the Tesla X, which should be 57K with 160 miles range and much more car.

PS: for Hmmm, if you can afford only a house that cost less than 50K, what car to buy is the last of your problems!


re; -dphiBbydt

So does he own and pay insurance on another car or pay exorbitant money and/or time and effort for public transportation for the other 2%?


I want an answer to Hellski1's question. That 16 year old tech could be applied with ultra light weight & ultra low drag to achieve double or triple range. This was all made clear about twenty years ago by RMI with their open source work on the Hypercar. What is going on? I would like to see an investigation. Also, a report on Aptera's failure to produce would be nice.

[We have an article on the closure of Aptera at -Ed.]

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