Electric-Car Drive Report: 2002 Toyota RAV4 EV Crossover Page 2

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Toyota RAV4e electric vehicle, San Francisco, March 2010

Toyota RAV4e electric vehicle, San Francisco, March 2010

Chose your regeneration

The standard Toyota shift lever has two forward positions, the default one of which provides no regenerative braking at all.

While unusual for anyone who's driven a more modern electric car, it's easy to get used to--and a button on the side of the shift lever adds some regen, though not a lot.

Stronger regenerative braking is achieved when the driver shifts into the "low" gear, producing a driving experience more akin to that of a Tesla Roadster (though without the stunning acceleration). With practice, one-pedal driving is possible, even in hilly San Francisco.

The car has a quiet but continuous squeal from the front as it gets going, which Geller says is a chronic problem owners attribute to the aluminum front brake disks until they warm up.

Design & maintenance issues

Geller has had only two failures in his five years of ownership, during which time he's put on tens of thousands of miles.

The first was the fan on the charging port behind the grille, which gave up the ghost. This limited charging to 20 percent of pack capacity before the receptacle got too hot and safety sensors shut off the charging altogether.

Toyota, Geller said, would not simply sell him a replacement fan (which screws onto the outside of the receptacle). Instead, the company insisted he would have to replace the entire port assembly, for which they quoted $4,000.

The second failure was a capacitor within the power electronics inside the large under-hood box. Again, Toyota insisted on replacing the entire assembly, again for several thousand dollars.

Rabidly enthusiastic owners

In both cases, the extended network of RAV4 EV owners and enthusiasts came to his rescue. One owner researched several aftermarket fans, locating one with a higher rating and more durable build.

Another just had the necessary capacitor custom-fabricated, since it had apparently failed for many of the hundreds of owners still running their RAV4 EV electric vehicles, who provide a ready market.

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

Geller isn't sure how long his battery pack will last--they're no longer available from Panasonic, and "lightly used" packs are quoted at $15,000 or thereabouts--but looks forward to quite a bit of future life in his electric SUV.

Toyota is planning a 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid. But while it has showed several electric concept cars,  its U.S. plans for a future all-electric version of its Scion iQ minicar remain unclear.

What about the new crop of electric cars coming soon, like the 2011 Nissan Leaf or the 2011 Chevrolet Volt? He's very firm that he will only drive battery electric cars in future--nothing with an internal combustion engine, which rules out the Volt.

Would he buy a Leaf? Geller just smiles.


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