Today, Toyota revealed the production version of its eagerly awaited 2012 RAV4 EV all-electric crossover, with a powertrain designed and provided by startup electric carmaker Tesla Motors.

Surprising many at the event, Toyota revealed its production plans: It expects to build and sell roughly 2,600 RAV4 EVs over the next three years, and it will launch in only four California regions.

That’s only a fraction of the 10,000 or so Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid models that the company will likely sell during 2012. It would appear to indicate that the RAV4 EV is essentially more a “compliance car”—designed to meet California Zero-Emission Vehicle rules—than a product Toyota plans to market and sell aggressively across the country.

“We look forward to seeing how the market responds” to the RAV4 EV, said Bob Carter, Toyota’s group VP and general manager. He predicted that the RAV4 EV would attract “sophisticated early technology adopters, much like the first-generation Prius.”

The 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV has a range estimated at 100 miles—the EPA range rating is more likely to be 70 to 75 miles—and it carries a list price of $49,800 before incentives.

Toyota says the performance and handling of the electric RAV4 matches that of the most powerful gasoline RAV4 model, fitted with a V-6 engine. In Normal mode, it takes 8.6 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph, and top speed is limited to 85 mph.

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV

In Sport mode, however, the 0-to-60-mph time is cut to 7.0 seconds, and top speed rises to 100 mph. With the battery pack mounted centrally and low in the floorpan, the RAV4 EV should be fun to drive—something that certainly can’t said of every crossover utility. The blue dash display turns red when the driver selects Sport mode.

Following a 2010 meeting between new Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, the RAV4 EV was announced in July 2010. Toyota showed an early prototype at the Los Angeles Auto Show that November, and first drives of refined prototypes came in April 2011.

Tesla provides the lithium-ion battery pack, power electronics, and the electric motor that powers the front wheels, with a rated peak power of 115 kilowatts (154 hp). The battery warranty is 8 years or 100,000 miles.

Many modifications unique to the electric model have been made to the base vehicle. Toyota claims that the RAV4 EV is the world’s most aerodynamic SUV, quoting a drag coefficient of 0.30.

Compared to gasoline versions, the new model has a modified front bumper, grille and surround, as well as changes to the side mirrors and rear spoiler, and underbody shields and changes to smooth airflow under the vehicle.

The RAV4 EV comes as a high-end model in the RAV4 range. Both front seats--including the six-way adjustable driver’s seat—incorporate heaters. A central 8-inch capacitive touchscreen display shows EV operating data as well as telematics and infotainment. Low beams and daytime running lights are LED, with projector high beams.

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV Prototype

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV Prototype

Toyota will offer three colors: Blizzard Pearl White, Shoreline Blue Pearl, and Classic Silver Metallic. Seat inserts and door trim are made of a blue-tinted “Neutron” fabric. Cargo space is 73 cubic feet, the same as the standard RAV4.

The RAV4 EV comes with a standard 120-Volt charging cable, although Toyota is working with Leviton to provide 240-Volt home charging stations for owners. One option is a 40-amp, 9.6-kilowatt station that will provide a charging time of roughly 6 hours. The vehicle’s onboard Tesla charger can operate up to 10 kilowatts. The charging port is a standard J-1772 socket.

The electric RAV4 will initially be offered for sale late this summer in four California regional markets: San Diego, Los Angeles/Orange County, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area. It will go into production at Toyota’s RAV4 plant in Woodstock, Ontario, within weeks.

The unveiling took place on the exposition floor of the 26th annual Electric Vehicle Symposium, held this week in the Los Angeles Convention Center.


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