2012 Toyota RAV4 EV: First Drive From Behind The Wheel (Video)

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The new 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV is quick, relatively fun to drive, and the only all-electric crossover utility vehicle on the market today.

It has a good, intuitive touchscreen display and instrument cluster that shows both the maximum possible range and a constantly updated range based on both the climate-control settings and its most recent usage and driving style.

Now we can show you on video what it's like from behind the wheel.

Just view the video above--it's a bit more than 3 minutes--to see what it's like inside the new electric RAV4.

For more details, you can read our complete RAV4 EV first drive report, which includes many more photos and details.

The unfortunate thing about the electric RAV4, from our point of view, is that it will only be sold in California for now.

Moreover, Toyota has said it plans to build only 2,600 of the cars over the next three years (through the 2014 model year).

With low sales figures coming in for both the Nissan Leaf and the newly available Ford Focus Electric, both five-door hatchbacks, Toyota may be justifiably cautious in limiting its production of a car that almost surely loses them money on each copy.

But if buyers materialize for an electric crossover, especially since it seems to offer a real-world range of 100 miles or more, we suspect Toyota may consider a successor vehicle down the road.

We should note that while the car's indicated range tracked well against the miles we actually logged, we drove a pair of RAV4 EVs about 65 miles in total during the day's test.

So we can't confirm from testing whether it does deliver a real 100 miles.

Still, the Toyota product engineers we spoke with seemed more certain about their range estimates than their counterparts at some other makers.

So we suspect that the 100-mile figure should be pretty close to the mark--at least in temperate southern California.

Give us your impressions of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, and of our video, by leaving your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (15)
  1. Nice job!! It is a shame that it's only a "compliance car" for the the California market! :-( My guess is that it'll be too expensive as a production vehicle for even limited roll out. (I wonder what Tesla's charging--sorry--Toyota for the motor and related tech?)

    And while I think crossovers, SUVs and minivans would be good EV platforms, will buyers come? (Or is 100-mile ranges still a problem with buyers?)

  2. great that Toyota is putting these out and hopefully other car manufacturers who are serious about EVs will see the need for a Crossover/SUV that is 100% EV

  3. Looks like Toyota and Tesla have put together a great car.

  4. Is it 4 wheel drive?


  5. No, it's front-wheel drive. Click on the link in the 5th paragraph for the full first-drive report.

  6. Thanks John, I've always wondered if it was going to be 4WD..


  7. Nice review, very accurate assessment consistent with my experience. I think it's important to emphesis that the range estimates (98-103 or whatever) are VERY conservative. In 3 hours of continuous LA driving we started with a max range of 138 and still had over 40 miles of range left. In sport mode this thing is a thrill to drive. A bit disappointed in the charging options (no 240v portable charging cable--must install a permanent EVSE in your garage). And it's a shame that Toyota isn't marketing this more widely, it's a heck of a good car.

  8. Excellent reporting as usual, John. I'm disappointed with the limited release of this vehicle, as I would really like to purchase it immediately. I live in Washington state, so it'll take extra effort to secure one. I have a local dealership working on it right now.

    I have a question about the $7500 federal tax credit available on this vehicle. My wife just purchased the 2013 Volt (she's had it for less than 2 weeks), so we'll have a $7,500 credit earned for that purchase. Assuming a large enough tax liability, is it permissible to have a second $7,500 credit in the same tax year?

  9. @Richard: Thanks for the good words. As I noted in replying to the same Q you posted on a different article, I don't know the answer to that. See your tax professional.

  10. @John: My apologies for missing your reply. I've been checking for it, but missed the link "addition comments" just below my post, so I didn't see your reply. Thanks for your help.

    I'll try to get an answer, and post what I find out.

  11. "Give us your impressions of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, and of our video,"...

    ok, since you asked...
    why would you post a video about a car and then make the audience watch you talk the whole time? Its a video about the car right? so show me the car! there is 14 seconds of the dash and thats it. Seriously, no one, with the possible exception of your mother, clicked in to see you talking. You basically just said everything I could read in the article anyway. Not to rant to much, but your videos would be more popular if you showed pictures of the car and provided a voice over - if you must. sorry for nit picking but you did ask...

  12. When, when, when will they figure out that a larger aerodynamic van is the best platform? Sure, it'll be heavier than the compact/midsize cars/crossovers they've been offering, but just think of how much additional battery space there is! What traveler, soccer mom and businessperson wouldn't want that? I just don't understand the utter lack of innovation in this industry.

  13. To answer a few questions after 6000 miles on my Rav4. First, Toyota pulls some "funny business" with the application of the $7500 federal tax credit. Every other manufacturer that I know of (Nissan LEAF, GM Volt, etc) passes the $7500 through to the end lease consumer as a $7500 capitalization reduction. Toyota does not. To qualify for the credit, you need to purchase the car.

    Speaking of purchase, there currently is a $6000 rebate from Toyota until Feb 4, 2013. Add that to the $7500 federal tax credit and $2500 California state rebate, and that's $16,000 total off the $50,800 sticker price. There are a few dealers who will discount the car an additional $1000. Did I mention, 0% financing!!!

    Only about 200 total have been sold to date.

  14. The range of the car is quite good. If you disconnect the 12 volt battery, the dash range guessing instrument will default to 146 miles, which is 3.5 miles per kWh economy multiplied by 41.8kWh usable. Believe it or not, the car will ACTUALLY do that at 65 mph steady speed on a beautiful 70F/20C degree day, on flat dry roads with no elevation differential and no climate control.

    Around town, expect a much lower 2.5 - 2.9 miles per kWh. The EPA numbers are based on 2.7 miles per kWh, so 41.8 multiplied by 2.7 equals 113 miles, and a "normal" charge of about 80% of that capacity will yield 34 * 2.7 or 92 miles. The average comes out to the combined 103 EPA range.

    So, yes, you can comfortably drive 100 miles in town, and more on the highway.

  15. Lack of any quick charge support for the car really is a disappointment, particularly when dozens of CHAdeMO quick chargers are being installed throughout the state of California this year. But, it is the "poor man's" Tesla for a really good price. Toyota paid Tesla $100 million for the project, or about $38,000 per each of the 2600 they will product to meet 0.79% fleet zero emission vehicle standards in California.

    Toyota is losing a bundle on these. Make their loss your gain !!!

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