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$50,000 electric Toyota RAV4 rated at 76 mpg equivalent

Consumer Reports News: September 13, 2012 04:38 PM

2012-Toyota-RAV4-EV-plug.jpgPriced at about $50,000, the upcoming pure-electric RAV4 EV is government-rated at 76 mpg equivalent (MPGe) with a 103-mile range. This electric SUV will go on sale in California on Sept 24th.

Available for purchase or lease, the RAV4 EV will be priced at $49,800. Making the hefty price tag more palatable, the SUV is also eligible for $10,000 in tax rebates: $7,500 from the federal government and $2,500 from California. Qualified buyers can opt for a 1.9-percent loan. Lease terms are $599 a month for 36 months, with $3,500 due at signing.

The RAV4 EV earned a 76 MPGe rating on the EPA combined-cycle fuel-economy test, with 78 MPGe city and 74 MPGe highway. Beyond energy efficiency, another appeal is that the RAV4 EV will qualify to use California's carpool lanes at any time.

If that mileage sounds low, compared with the 106 MPGe we got overall with from the Nissan Leaf, consider that the RAV4 is a larger, taller vehicle and less aerodynamic. That, plus its projected 103-mile range (versus 75 miles we measured for the Nissan Leaf), requires a very big battery. The RAV4's 470-pound Tesla battery packs a hefty 41.8 kWh and is stashed low enough that it actually lowers the SUV's center of gravity, Toyota says.

2012-Toyota-RAV4-EV-back-seat.jpgToyota says it takes 44 hours to fully charge the RAV4 EV on a standard household outlet. But since its electric drive was designed by Tesla, it has a very large 10-kW onboard charger to bring charge times down to as little as 5 hours on a Level 2 electric vehicle charger. Getting those charge times, however, requires buying a special unit from Leviton that can supply 9.6 kW of power. On a standard Level 2 charger, like those at our test track, the RAV4 EV should take between 6-1/2 and 7-1/4 hours. (On other electric cars we've tested, the onboard charger is the bottleneck slowing down charge times.)

That big lithium-ion battery feeds a motor that can produce 154 hp and 273 ft.-lbs of torque. The electric RAV4 is available only as a front-wheel-drive model.

Toyota plans to build 2,600 examples of this RAV4, in conjunction with partner Tesla. The next-generation RAV4 is expected in 2015; another electric version would seem likely.

This modest production run should satisfy the band of die-hard electric-car enthusiasts still running around the West Coast in original RAV4 EVs from the 1990s, as well as those buyers who are attracted to the technology, but require more space than the current small cars. As for EV enthusiasts in the other 49 states, Tesla is developing an electric SUV called Model X...

See our four-cylinder and V6 RAV4 road test.

See our guide to fuel economy and guide to alternative fuels.

Eric Evarts

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