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Toyota RAV4 EV an Exceptional, Well-Engineered Electric SUV

by Ron CoganNovember 8, 2012
When Toyota decided to offer an all-electric production version of its RAV 4, Tesla became a strategic development partner.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RAV4-EV-Action-1-1024x576.jpgToyota is now selling its all-new RAV4 EV at select California dealerships. This all-electric SUV was jointly developed by Toyota and Tesla Motors, combining a Tesla designed and pro­duced battery and electric powertrain with Toyota’s most popular SUV model. No inte­rior space was lost due to EV components

Our editors who have driven the RAV4 EV have found it to be an excellent small SUV that performs seamlessly, with an intelligent approach to electric motoring. You’re not left wanting for power, comfort,  or the kind of driving experience expected of a Toyota product…it’s all there, but without the inherent drawbacks of burning gasoline. At nearly fifty grand, though, it’s likely not for everyone.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RAV4-EV-Underhood-1-1024x576.jpgThe RAV4 EV’s 154-horsepower AC induc­tion motor drives the front wheels via a fixed-gear, open-differential transaxle. There are two drive modes, ‘Sport’ and ‘Normal.’ In the Sport mode with 273 lb-ft of peak torque brought to bear, the vehicle reaches 0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds and has a top speed of 100 mph. In the Normal mode with 218 lb-ft at the ready, acceleration to 60 mph takes 8.6 seconds and top speed is 85 mph.

Its liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery is a first for Toyota. Battery thermal management systems provide consistent performance in a variety of climates. The battery pack is mounted low and to the center of the vehicle, contributing to a more sedan-like ride. Two charge modes are available, with a Standard Mode charging up to 35 kilowatt-hours for an EPA-estimated range rating of 92 miles, optimizing battery life over range. An Extended Mode charges the battery to its full capacity of 41.8 kilowatt-hours to provide an anticipated range of 113 miles. The battery is warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RAV4-EV-Rear-1-1024x576.jpg

A drag coefficient of 0.30, the lowest of any SUV in the world, is an improvement over the conventional gas powered RAV4’s Cd of 0.35. To achieve this, Toyota restyled the front bumper, upper and lower grill, side mirrors, rear spoiler, and underbody design to optimize air flow. The Toyota/Tesla designed regenerative braking system increases driving range by up to 20 percent. A tire repair kit replaces the spare to reduce weight.

An innovative climate control system offers three modes. In the NORMAL mode, it operates just like that of a conventional vehicle for maximum comfort, drawing the most power and resulting in the least range. The ECO LO mode balances comfort with improved range through reduced power consumption by the blower, air condition­ing compressor, or electric heater. In cold weather, ECO LO automatically activates and controls seat heaters to optimal levels. ECO HI further reduces blower, compressor, and heater levels and also automatically activates the seat heaters as necessary. Efficiency achievements are notable. ECO LO can reduce power consumption by up to 18 percent compared with NORMAL, while ECO HI offers up to a 40 percent reduction. Remote Climate Control – set by a timer, by the navigation display, or by using a smart phone – pre-cools or pre-heats the interior while the vehicle is plugged into the grid to save on-board battery power.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RAV4-EV-Instrumentation-1-1024x576.jpgDriving efficiently is assisted with an all-new instrument cluster that includes a power meter, driving range display, battery gauge, speedometer, shift indicator, and multi-information display. The latter has six screens that provide information on driving range, efficiency, trip efficiency, CO2 reduc­tion, and ECO coach and AUX power func­tions. Trip efficiency displays the average power consumption in intervals of five min­utes. Eco coach evaluates the level of eco-sensitive driving according to acceleration, speed, and braking and displays an overall score. CO2 reduction, displayed graphically via a growing tree, is compared to a conven­tional gasoline vehicle.

Premium Intellitouch Navigation features EV system screens that help maximize driv­ing range. The EV Charging schedule lets customers schedule when the vehicle will charge and activates pre-climate condition­ing based on departure time. A Range Map shows how far the car can travel on avail­able battery charge. A Charging Station app displays nearby charging stations.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RAV4-EV-Display-1-1024x576.jpgFor the shortest charge time of about six hours, Leviton offers a custom 240 volt, Level 2 charger with 40 amp / 9.6 kilowatt output. The RAV4 EV comes equipped with a 120 volt Level 1 charging cable operating at 12 amps for use when the recommended Level 2 charging is not available.

The RAV4 EV comes standard with the STAR Safety System that includes enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and smart stop technology. While the RAV4 EV is pricy at $49,800, that price decreases a bit since it qualifies for a $2,500 rebate through California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as well as a $7,500 federal tax credit. Toyota plans to sell about 2,600 units through 2014.