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In Effort To Sell RAV4 Electric SUVs, Toyota Puts 'Cash On Hood'

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The all-electric Toyota RAV4 EV, even with its Tesla-designed powertrain, isn't exactly flying out of dealerships.

While it's a low-volume compliance car sold to meet California regulations, Toyota still has to move 2,600 of them over a three-year period that began in September 2012.

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

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

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So Toyota is doing what all carmakers do when sales wane: putting "cash on the hood," in this case a total of $16,500 in lease incentives.

DON'T MISS: Toyota RAV4 EV: First Drive Of Tesla-Powered Crossover

The goal is to boost the number of electric RAV4s delivered to keep Toyota on track to meet that total of 2,600.

As of March 31, the company had sold 1,525 over 19 months, but its monthly sales have varied greatly, by almost a factor of 10.

A basic 2014 Toyota RAV4 EV has a base price of $49,800, plus a mandatory $860 delivery fee.

The 41.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack designed by Tesla Motors is rated at 103 miles of range, the highest range of any battery-electric vehicle that's not a Tesla Model S.

MORE: Nissan Leaf Likely To Offer Larger Battery For Longer Range

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV launch at EVS-26, Los Angeles, April 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV launch at EVS-26, Los Angeles, April 2012

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We'll say up front that the leasing math is complicated.

While California residents may see the RAV4 EV advertised with monthly lease payments below $300, there are some very important caveats to that number.

According to Dianne Whitmire of Carson Toyota--who has sold dozens of the electric crossovers--most leases end up with monthly payments of $450 to $500.

One alluring feature, she added, is that a wide variety of leases are offered--from as little as 10,000 miles a year to completely unlimited mileage, a popular option among road-warrior Californian family buyers.

The $16,500 Toyota lease allowance generally gets split several ways, she says: It's allocated among the first month's payment, a reduction in the capital cost, registration and licensing fees, and most importantly, taxes.

The state of California taxes the lease-reduction amount, and different counties in that state have sales tax rates ranging from 7.25 to 10.5 percent 8 to 10 percent.

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

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

Enlarge Photo

So it's important to know that the $299 or $329 monthly leases specifically do not include payment of any sales taxes, which can reach $4,000 depending on county.

ALSO READ: How Many Miles Are Enough To Kill Electric-Car Range Anxiety?

We'll leave the discussion there, because the math will vary with each individual lessee.

If you want to buy, by the way, Toyota's incentive is a mere $2,500--although buyers can also claim a $7,500 Federal income-tax credit when they file their taxes next year. (For leased RAV4 EVs, the credit is claimed by the leasing company.)

Both buying and leasing earns the RAV4 EV driver a $2,500 rebate check from the state of California--or at least it should if that program obtains additional funding later this year.

But the main message is this: If you've wanted to lease a Toyota RAV4 EV all-electric crossover, you may want to consider doing it before May 5, when the special deal is set to end.

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