2012 Toyota RAV4 EV: First Drive Of Tesla-Powered Crossover Page 2

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2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

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That means owners will have a sufficiently beefy 240-Volt Level 2 charging station if they want to charge a fully discharged pack overnight.

Toyota has arranged with Leviton to offer a custom charging station that delivers 9.6 kW at 40 amps, which will give you a recharge time of just 6 hours for the full pack. The price starts at $1,590 including basic installation.

On the other end of the scale, charging at 110 Volts with the cord that comes standard under the rear deck is tortuous, with a full pack charge requiring far more than 24 hours.

The motto: Big packs require special charging stations--which may require you to rewire your garage first. You have been warned.

Good handling, not great

With the 840-pound battery pack as the lowest part of the vehicle, the handling of the Toyota RAV4 EV is good. Oddly, the lower center of gravity (as good as a sedan's, Toyota says) makes the tall crossover seating position feel higher than in the conventional vehicle.

Toyota has re-weighted its electric power steering to give less assist on the highway and more assist at low speeds, where the extra weight demands it. The steering feel is less noticeably numb than on many other Toyota products, though there's still not a lot of road feel available.

Overall, while the handling isn't as well balanced as our all-time favorite crossover, the 2013 Mazda CX-5, it's better than average for a compact crossover.

Affluent-family #WIN

The 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV has the potential to be the best and most practical battery electric vehicle sold in the U.S. south of Tesla's luxury-priced Model S sedan range.

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

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While the 2012 Nissan Leaf offers 73 miles of EPA-rated range and sacrifices some portion of that at freeway speeds, the RAV4 EV apparently hits the magic 100-mile mark, if not quite the 120 miles that many plug-in advocates feel is the real sweet spot.

So now affluent, early adopter families can add an electric crossover to the list of plug-in cars to test-drive along with the Leaf, the Chevy Volt, and the Tesla Model S.

The electric RAV4 may also simply whet the market's appetite for the upcoming 2014 Tesla Model X crossover, complete with "falcon doors" and its 60- or 85-kWh battery pack options.

Which is why it's such a shame that so few of these will be built through the 2014 model year.

We understand why; such a development partnership was a shockingly new and challenging way of doing business for both companies.

Both Toyota and Tesla are proud companies with set ways of designing, validating, and engineering cars for production.

If you read between the lines when speaking to slightly tired-looking engineers, meshing those procedures in a single product team to get a car out the door in two and a half years was brutally hard.

Losing money on each one

More importantly, industry scuttlebutt suggests that Toyota is still likely losing $10,000 or more on each RAV4 EV it sells. After all, if your CEO tells you to co-develop a car with Tesla, what incentive does Tesla have to cut prices on its battery pack and other components?

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Enlarge Photo

But Toyota is justifiably proud of the RAV4 EV, if still slightly shell-shocked at the birth process.

And 2,600 wealthy buyers who plunk down their $49,400 (before a Federal tax credit of $7,500 and California purchase rebate of $2,500) will be the beneficiaries.

Toyota hasn't said whether it will offer a lease for the car, which it expects to go largely to retail buyers.

But given that the car may retain only 50 percent of its pack capacity over 5 to 8 years--largely depending on how it's driven and charged--there's an argument that a three-year lease might be about right.

Toyota warranties the battery pack for 8 years or 100,000 miles, but that simply ensures that if the pack fails, it is covered. The warranty specifically does not cover any loss of battery capacity.

Third generation to come?

Will there be a new 2016 model of the electric RAV4, given that the gasoline versions will be redesigned for 2014? (The electric version will continue with the older design after that happens, on the same lines.)

Toyota won't say. The company does hint that it'll be watching market reception of the RAV4 EV closely.

So if you want an electric crossover with 100 miles of real-world range and surprising acceleration that has all the cargo space of the regular RAV4, now's your chance.

That's your hint, folks.

Toyota provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person test drive.

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Enlarge Photo
2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Enlarge Photo
2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Enlarge Photo
2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Enlarge Photo
2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Enlarge Photo
2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Enlarge Photo
2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Enlarge Photo


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