Tom Hanks, the movie star, is also an early adopter of electric vehicles. His 2003 Toyota RAV 4 EV is still in use today, and runs on the original batteries that came with the vehicle.
Hank's RAV4 sees daily use by one of his employees. The vehicle has just over 50,000 miles on it now and is likely one of only a few such vehicles still around.
Why does this make news now? The New Yorker recently wrote an article describing Hanks as a "green" guy and stated that he used to own one of the original GM EV1 vehicles. Turns out, that not true and Hanks responded to the magazine to let them know that they were wrong. There were simply no EV1s left for Hanks when he tried to get one.
The response from Hanks to the magazine went as follows, "Instead, I found what was purported to be the very last electric car available for sale in the state of California, a Toyota EV. When the car companies collectively, and, to some diabolically, decided to take these cars back, the electric vehicle disappeared. But not mine."
Production of the RAV4 EV ceased in 2003.
Toyota responded in 2003 regarding why they would no longer over this vehicle. Their response includes some of the following, "In addition to overall customer acceptance, technical issues tied to electric vehicles remain a major hurdle. Industry practice regards batteries to be at the end of their useful life when capacity decreases to 80% of original capacity. It is cost prohibitive to replace an EV battery. The cost to replace the battery is more than the value of the vehicle."
Amazingly, Hank's EV uses the original battery still, and its unlikely that he would not be able to afford replacement batteries.
The real question is whether or not this statement from Toyota would still hold true today. Are batteries still this expensive? As prices for EVs come down, do battery replacements cost more than the entire vehicle? How much has changed since 2003?