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

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Comments (40)
  1. "Then there are three climate settings: Eco-High, Eco-Low, and Normal."

    This brings new meaning to 'Climate Control Settings' (high & low vs. warm & cold). Wish auto manufactures would not over focus on eco-marketing and call these 'power settings'. I love electric vehicles because they are: clean (no smells, drips) & fun to drive (max torque anytime).

    Eco-power settings on an EV are somewhat ironic from an eco-nomic point of view as they save less than a cent per mile. Similar eco-power settings on ICEV will have a greater than 8x cost savings per mile (multiple pennies per mile). This is because an EV motor/drivetrain is already 85-90% efficient vs. 28-35% efficient for ICE.

    My eco-rant a side; I'd purchase a RAV4 if I lived in CA.

  2. Tough to watch market reception when you're not planning on selling many of them.

  3. "But given that the car may retain only 50 percent of its pack capacity over 5 to 8 years--"

    I've seen no evidence that a Tesla pack would drop capacity at this rate, Roadsters are showing only a few percentage points of capacity loss per year, and newer chemistry should do even better. Where did you come up with those numbers?

  4. @JRP: Good question. This came from a side conversation on worst-case scenarios with Toyota execs, but since I didn't write down a source in my notes, I am wondering if I should strike it through ... though I suspect in some cases it could be accurate.

  5. It seems excessively pessimistic considering Tesla's aggressive TMS/BMS setup to protect the pack. I suppose constant 100% charging, deep DOD, high temps, and a lot of high power charging, might lead to premature capacity loss, but doing all that is pretty much asking for problems and would be outside of normal use.

  6. That's the first time I hear such a number. It doesn't seem to have a scientific basis. ;)

  7. For those of us with Laptops, the number seems about right. However, the Tesla Li-Ion chemistry is a little different.

  8. More importantly an EV environment is quite different than a laptop pack, which is usually kept at a high SOC, used near hot processors and not temperature controlled, and discharged deeply on a regular basis. EV cells have a much easier life.

  9. I buy the high "SOC" claim, but I am not sure about the temperature issue.

    My laptops seem to have the battery as far away from the processor heat as possible. Also, I don't deeply discharge my laptop batteries, and they still only last 2 to 4 years.

  10. As far away as possible in a laptop means a few inches, the batteries do sit at elevated temperatures.

  11. @JRP3:I agree with your observation. Throwing in a gratuitous 50% capacity drop number, based on some hazy worst case scenario without mentioning that, raises some questions. It's precisely the sort of FUD that scares people away from BEVs and I wonder why I find so much of that on this blog especially when it comes to Tesla.

    People will argue that this is still a very positive review and sure enough, so it is. But when when I read it, based on my experience I realised there would be some venom in the tail, and sure enough: there it was. No matter how positive this review was, that's probably the bit that will stick with people I fear despite the fact that it's pretty baseless and I wonder why there is such a predictable pattern.

  12. I'll take one, please. Thank you Tesla for the mini sport utility version of the 40kWh Model S.

  13. So this is about a $25k premium ($15k after incentives) over a comparable equipped regular RAV-4. Kind of expensive to justify unless you love the quieter drive and HOV sticker.

  14. The $15k premium over ICE is not so expensive if operating costs over 5+ years of ownership are included. A basic 12,500 miles per year at average 25mpg (RAV4 rated 22/28) using $4/gal CA gas = ~$10,000. This leaves $1000 per year for added ICE maintance (oil changes, spark plugs, air filter, transmission fluid, muffler, radiator flushes, etc).

    Savings are greater if:
    -- drive more that 12,500 miles per year,
    -- gas price go above $4,
    -- drive the eRAV4 more than 5 years.

    This doesn't include value of time savings with HOV pass.

  15. Sure, $1k per year is a pretty expensive maintaince even for an ICE. Oil change every 5k miles is about 13 changes over 5 years. $40/change is only $520. No need for spark plug change for 65k miles, Air filter is about $30 every year for 5 years is about $150. Transmission fluids only needs change every 50,000 miles at most (unless you are towing). That is $200 at most. Muffler usually last lifetime these days since they are stainless. Radiator flushes cost about $80-$150 per flush. Let us say every 3 years. That is only $300. Add it up to only $1500 at most over 5 years of ownership. Double it for 10 years is only $3000. So, the ICE is still ahead by at least $2k. Assuming electricit is free.

  16. My math suggests the premium is $9,000 after incentives, not $15,000. A loaded 4x2 V6 RAV4 runs $31,400, but perhaps there are rebates to that one too? The Electric is $50K minus $10K in incentives. $40K-$31K is $9K. Annual savings will depend on how much -- if anything -- you pay for electricity. Some people charge for free from municipal lots or from employers. If you drive 10,000 miles per year at 25 MPG, that's 400 gallons. At $4/gallon, that's $1,600 per year. That suggests a 6 year payback. Obviously, there are many other factors: fun to drive, less noise, less maintenance, carpool lane... and the eventual battery change some time down the road. It's a messy calculation.

  17. Well, A "limited" edition FWD V6 RAV4 starts at $27K MSRP. If you load it up to $31k, it has just about every options. I don't think the EV version will have all the options that Loaded Limited does. Now, NO RAV-4 is selling at MSRP. There are $1,000 incentives right now. According to Edmunds.com, the average selling price is only $26K including the incentives. That is a realistic price. But let us say it is $28k. Average CA sales tax is about 8.5%. So, a real cost of the RAV4 EV is $50k *1.085 - $10k = $44.25k. The real cost of the RAV4 ICE is $28k *1.085 = $30.38k. The registration difference is $4,656 vs. $2,663. Add it up, you are talking about $15,863 in cost walking out of the dealership (assuming you are getting $10k back).

  18. Don't get me wrong. I agree that EV requires almost no maintaince, it is quieter and more pleasant to drive. More Low end torque and faster off the line...

    But $15k difference leaving the dealership is a hard pill to swallow. Sure, you will end up saving enough money in gas in the long run. But most people don't just jump at "long term" saving. Most Americans don't look for anything long term. That includes American corporations.

    I am just playing the devil's advocates here. It is simple to see why some of the EVs are hard sells.

    "SUV" are there so people can haul things or go to the mountains. A Limited edition RAV4 can take people to Lake Tahoe for a ski trip in the winter. A eRav4 will take 2 days to get there from SF...

  19. @Xiaolong: This is an age-old discussion on whether people buy EVs for the payback or not. Certainly the mass market will need to see rough price equivalency before buyers will seriously consider EVs in huge numbers.

    And retail buyers are known to overweight purchase price (translating to monthly payment) and underweight total cost of ownership.

    That said, at the moment, there are several different motivations for buying a plug-in vehicle, and only one of them is payback. See:

  20. I am with Xialong on this one. Even though I love the idea of owning an EV, it is tough to part with that kind of premium, particularly if there is any doubt in you mind about the long term reliability.

  21. The payback issue is pretty moot here. Only 2600 are available; this doesn't need to appeal to the calculator crowd. It will payback though, big time. The largest single cost in car ownership is depreciation and since this will be rare yet attractive offering on the second hand market it's residual value will be rock solid. Apart from maintenance there is also repairs to be considered, most likely much lower on this than on most ICE vehicles. Not necessarily compared to a quality product like the ICE RAV4 but certainly compared to the average GM product, including the Volt I'm afraid which is a very complex product from a car maker that has trouble getting it right with much simpler products.

  22. There are more comments in this thread
  23. There are so many people in this country (USA) that buy BMW, Mercedes, Audi, etc. and there is certainly "no payback" on any of those alternatives over a more plebeian transporter, but they find the "personal satisfaction" in those choices. Driving an EV, certainly for most of us is absolutely NOT about "payBACK," but investment in a better TOMORROW for others. Independence from Middle East oil cartels, environmental concerns, convenience and the simple "feel of such linear power" are all rewards for going EV now.

    Sure, these are somewhat novel (and perhaps "risky" ) choices at this time, but so were early flat screen TVs and laptop computers and now we cannot imagine a world without those "new technologies."

  24. No, but at that price it is better to buy a Tesla S instead of eRav4...

  25. Yaa, baby! But how can this be so expensive? The base vehicle is around $23k, and this is double that.

  26. Since the conversation moved to "cost"... is there a reliable source to confirm the difference in manufacturing cost (less the battery) for the changes needed in a specific car to go from ICE to BEV? Is the electric motor, trans, controller, brake system, HVAC system and other EV electronics less or more expensive than the comparable ICE components?

  27. Well, cost is associated with volumn. Tyically, a large volumne ICe cost about $1-$2 per hp to make. Transmission is generally $500-$1000 in "cost".

    By those figures, the battery and controllers alone will be more expensive than ICE and transmission. Plus, EVs will need special cooling system for its controllers and batteries.

  28. Numbers on EV components vary wildly (especially battery) so it remains all speculation and like you said, it's all volume related anyway.

  29. This vehicle is definitely an improvement over the Chevy Volt which is advertised as an electric car but in reality it is far from it.The volt has an electric range of only 25-35 miles which may be OK if you only go on short trips but the advertised range of the car is almost all using the small gas engine it is equipped with.To me it is not much of an effort by GM to make an electric car and the advertising for it borders on false advertising.If you want a real electric car buy a Tesla.
    If you are a sheep buy a Chevy Volt,an expensive farce.For a little more money you can get an all electric car made in America by a company that is not supported with your taxes and not in partnership with the government and big oil.The volt is a joke.

  30. Well, in my last 2865 miles, only 9.2 gallon gas was used. Most of my trips were electric. In those 9.2 gallon trips, NONE of the current EVs can meet my demand. So, why is Volt NOT an EV inside its battery range? A farce? At least it is a NOT a "compliance" car like what this article is talking about...

    "sheep"? Really, Volt is the FASTEST EV (battery power only) under $45k. I guess "sheep" really beat just about every electric "turtles" ou there...

    "A little more money"? Do you mean the Tesla? Which still go about few hundreds millions of tax payer funded loans from the DOE. If Volt is a "joke", then why does it sell more than any other plugins?

  31. With a 40 kW-hr pack, I would expect much better range than the quoted numbers.
    Is the vehicle that heavy or have such poor aerodynamics?

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