Toyota may be planning to soon add a plug-in hybrid version of the new RAV4.
Spy photographers for our sister site, MotorAuthority, recently caught a plug-in hybrid version of the RAV4 out testing on public roads overseas.
The company has long been a laggard in the movement to sell plug-in vehicles. The only plug-in model it currently sells in the U.S. is the Prius Prime with 25 miles of electric range.
The RAV4, which is already available as a very capable hybrid, could be the perfect next step, with a practical, utilitarian package that will attract American buyers along with some plug-in range and potentially very good gas mileage on longer trips that might require the gas engine.
The standard 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid gets an EPA rating of 41 mpg city, 38 highway, and 40 mpg combined. In our first-drive review, the RAV4 Hybrid returned 39 mpg, the best fuel economy of any SUV without a charge port.
2017 Toyota Prius Prime
If the plug-in hybrid uses the same 8.8-kilowatt-hour battery as the Prius Prime, it would likely get far short of the Prius Prime's 25-mile electric range. Although there might be more packaging potential for fitting a larger battery under the floor of the tall crossover.
The vehicle in the spy photos shows an area taped over on the RAV's right-rear corner, about the shape and location of the Prius Prime's plug-in charge port, and the spy photographers report that the vehicle had the RAV's standard fuel filler on the opposite side.
When they spotted it, the car was towing a light utility trailer, giving some hope that it could have some towing capacity.
Toyota has not officially announced plans to sell a plug-in hybrid RAV4, so it's unclear how likely the company is to bring the car to market. If it does, it could debut at the green-focused LA auto show in November.
The closest competitors to the RAV4 today are the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which has a 22-mile electric range, and the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid, which is rated at 26 miles. The Niro, however, is not available with all-wheel drive. The RAV4 could be expected to continue Toyota's hybrid SUV practice of using an electric motor on the rear axle to provide all-wheel drive.
Honda is also reportedly developing a plug-in hybrid version of its larger Pilot, which spy photographers spotted testing in June last year.