In our experience, the Toyota RAV4 EV has proven to be smooth-running and powerful, with an impressive range.
Over the next three years, the company plans to make and sell only 2,600 examples of this all-electric SUV. At $49,800, it may be expensive for a smallish front-drive-only model ($39,800 after tax rebates in California), but it sure is fun.
Understand that this is not some hurry-up conversion phoned in at the eleventh hour. Rather, the RAV4 EV is a well thought out, thoroughly developed, and altogether impressive effort. Unlike most EVs we've seen thus far, this is a serious, substantial vehicle, not merely a runabout on a short leash. In fact, the claimed 100-mile range is quite realistic and could potentially be longer based on our experience.
Toyota lent us a RAV4 EV for a few days last week. (Read: "Toyota RAV4 EV demonstrates the potential for an electric SUV.") This RAV4 EV traveled on highways with its lights, air conditioning, and miscellaneous accessories on, which tend to tax any EV range, and it lasted 99 miles before the battery was depleted. Admittedly, the last few miles produced some white knuckles as we compared the remaining range with the miles yet to cover, an anxiety familiar to any EV driver and even more so when first becoming accustomed a vehicle and its trip computer.
It took our 240-volt charger less than six hours to replenish the battery, a charge that pumped 40.6 kWh of juice into the RAV's big 41.8-kWh drive battery. All things considered, that was quick. The RAV EV uses a Tesla battery pack and beefy Tesla 10- kW on-board charger that enables charge times comparable to what we've been getting on other electric vehicles with a battery half the size. Power consumption worked out to about 2.4 mile/kWh, which translates to the equivalent of 82 mpg. If that sounds less impressive than some EVs, consider that the RAV4 EV weighs roughly 4,150 pounds, delivers eye-opening acceleration, and provides more interior space than most current battery-powered vehicles.
The RAV4's electric motor is rated at 154-hp, a bit less than the lighter, four-cylinder version. While that may not sound like much power, the EV produces abundant torque (218 pound-feet in Normal mode, 273 in Sport). It's the torque—all of which is available instantly—that produces the exhilarating thrust. Furthermore, power delivery is linear, smooth, and quiet.
The torque numbers in Sport mode are comparable with a Nissan 370Z sports coupe, and goosing the throttle pedal to flatten out the countryside can be habit-forming. But this is a speed addiction that comes without guilt, since not an ounce of fossil fuel is consumed. Depending on the source of the electricity, the RAV4 EV has the potential for the only carbon emission coming from you, exhaling.