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Toyota unveils all-electric RAV4

Oh, mandate: The RAV4 EV will help Toyota meet California’s low-emissions requirements.

High price and low sales for Toyota’s new California-only RAV4 EV

Toyota logo8 May 2012

TOYOTA unveiled its all-electric production vehicle, the RAV4 EV, in Los Angeles overnight, with a retail price tag almost double that of the brand’s top-specified petrol-engined RAV4.

Toyota has priced the “fully equipped” front-wheel-drive RAV4 EV at $US49,800 ($A48,800) whereas the top-spec FWD V6-engined Limited automatic model sells for $US27,250 ($A26,700).

It will go on sale in California in about four months, but is not scheduled for Australia.

The Japanese car-maker claims the electric version equals or exceeds the driving performance, dynamics and cargo capacity of the V6-engined RAV4.

Although it weighs about 215kg more, the extra weight is located down low, delivering what a Toyota executive described as “an even better driving experience” that would “dramatically change your thinking regarding EV performance”.

Toyota claims the vehicle’s aerodynamic drag figure of 0.30Cd is the best for any SUV in the world.

The EV’s highly anticipated introduction – at the 26th annual Electric Vehicle Symposium at the LA Convention Centre – comes less than two years after Toyota bought into California-based electric-car-maker Tesla Motors to fast-track its way into the EV market.

It looks similar to the concept shown at the LA motor show in November 2010, featuring LED low-beam projector headlights with halogen high beams and LED daytime-running lights (which dim to parking lights) and rear combination lights with smoked lenses.

Changes over the standard RAV4 include a re-styled front bumper, upper and lower grille, side mirrors, rear spoiler and underbody design to reduce aerodynamic drag.

The RAV4 EV brings together Toyota’s familiar compact SUV body with a Tesla 41.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 115kW electric powertrain, providing a driving range of about 160km. The battery warranty is eight years or 100,000 miles (160,000km).

Performance is claimed to be brisk, with a 0-60mph (96km/h) time of 7.0 seconds in Sport mode – compared with 6.3 seconds for the V6 auto Limited – and 8.6 seconds in power-saving Normal mode.

8 center imageFrom top: Toyota RAV4 EV and a Leviton home charging station.

It will go on limited sale in the US from “late summer” (August/September), initially through select dealers in four major California metropolitan markets only – Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles/Orange County and San Diego – to help Toyota meet the US state’s ZEV (zero emission vehicle) mandate.

The Japanese car-maker – which already sells the Prius plug-in hybrid in the US – will also introduce the iQ EV city car in California later this year.

Sales projections for the RAV4 EV are low, with Toyota planning to produce only 2600 vehicles over the next three years.

Toyota US group vice-president and general manager Bob Carter said that federal and California state incentives can bring the RAV4 EV’s cost below $40,000, while California HOV lane access adds to its customer appeal.

“We believe that the RAV4 EV will attract sophisticated early technology adopters, much like the first-generation Prius,” said Mr Carter.

“It’s designed for consumers who prioritise the environment and appreciate performance.

“It’s all about blending the best of two worlds. It marries the efficiency of an EV with the versatility of a small SUV – in fact, it is the only all-electric SUV on the market.

“We look forward to seeing how the market responds.” Toyota quotes a six-hour recharge time, but that is on a 240-volt/40-amp charger – a ‘Level 2’ device sold by approved supplier Leviton – rather than with the regular 120-volt charging cable provided with the vehicle.

Leviton introduced a wall-mounted 40-amp home charging station at the LA EV show that it claims will halve charge time to six hours.

Last year, it launched a 16-amp unit designed for the Prius Plug-in Hybrid that sells for around $1000 and cuts charge times from three hours to 1.5 hours.

The RAV4 EV develops a maximum of 115kW at 2800rpm and has a top speed of 100mph (161km/h) in Sport or 85mph (137km/h) in Normal mode.

Interior features include heated front seats with six-way adjustment, unique ‘Neutron’ fabric, woven with a subtle sheen and blue accent to match Toyota’s environmental colour, and an eight-inch touchscreen that displays EV drive information and settings as well as the usual sat-nav, telematics and infotainment displays.

The dash display color illuminates red when the vehicle is operating in Sport mode and blue in Normal.

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