f you’re in the market for an all-electric crossover, the pickings aren’t just slim, they’re otherwise non-existent. The RAV4 EV is the only show on the road. But it’s a pretty good show.
5/16/14 12:16 pm chumakdenis 2
Tyota hardly worked together with Tesla Motors to develop the second generation RAV4 EV, and the electric SUV was released in the United States.But have we recieved really good crossover? Well, yes. This is Tesla’s first crossover, albeit one dressed in the sheet metal of Toyota’s last-generation compact SUV.
The 2013 Toyota Rav4 EV is the $60 million baby born from the marriage of the Japanese automaker and its Silicon Valley partner. It’s running Tesla software, it’s packing a Tesla-developed battery, and it’s powered by the same AC induction motor pulled from the Tesla Model S, but fitted with a different set of internal gears.
Don’t want you to do so, but think of the RAV4 EV was the Alpha version of the upcoming Model X, but with less range, less power, less space, and less personality. And since it’s a retrofit, it also means that the RAV4 EV is less expensive than Tesla’s forthcoming “falcon-winged” SUV, with a sticker starting just shy of $50 000 before any federal or state tax incentives. But if you’re in the market for an all-electric crossover, the pickings aren’t just slim, they’re otherwise non-existent. The RAV4 EV is the only show on the road. But it’s a pretty good.
The RAV4 EV is quick, delivering a 0-60 mph time of seven seconds in “Sport” mode and topping out at 100 mph. It’s capable, with the same 73 cubic feet of storage capacity as its combustion-powered counterpart (with the rear seats folded down). And it’s got a usable range of around 100 miles thanks to a 41.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. But as always, your mileage may vary depending on the amount of lead in your right shoe.
It’s also the latest in a string of “compliance cars” being sold in California to meet the state’s zero-emissions mandate. Although Toyota would prefer you to think of the RAV4 EV as a way to showcase its green cred beyond the ever-expanding Prius line, the fact that it’s only available in California tells you all you need to know about its intended purpose. And it’s not the first time.
If you’re up on your electric vehicle history, this is the second electrified RAV4. The first was available from 1998 to 2003, and there are still about 500 floating around California roads. People love them, and after years of asking for a sophomore effort, Toyota answered, with a little help from its friends.
While it’s not as dynamic looking as the all-new RAV4 that went on sale earlier, the brace of “ELECTRIC” badging running down the sides - along with the new front fascia, mirrors and rear spoiler - make it stand out from the rest of the crossovers littering the Golden State. If just.
The interior is more of the same, with all the charm and panache of a modern SUV. That’s to say, not a lot. The cloth seats are comfortable if not conforming, the rear seats pack plenty of legroom and there’s ample space for a cadre of corgis, their primping supplies, and 4.5 decent-size humans.
Where the story changes is with the center-mounted climate control screen. It features a trick multi-color display that allows you to toggle between four temperature modes to maximize your range. Behind the steering wheel is a trio of binnacles, with the speedometer front and center. To the left is a maximum range meter, while the right side features a customizable display that gives you an alternate range based on your driving style, the amount of CO2 you’re not emitting (aka the “smugometer”), and a pseudo-driving coach that scores your electron-sipping skills by measuring your inputs and scores you on a scale of 0-100. I only managed to crack 80 once during a week behind the wheel. Damn Sport mode.
The central screen is where all the magic happens. It has a special EV display that shows everything from power used to cycles and charging status, along with the standard AM/FM/XM controls, Bluetooth and USB inputs, and navigation. The navi superimposes a range circle on the map to show how far you can go - one-way or roundtrip - with the current amount of juice on board.
Charging is a snap. There’s a 110-volt “emergency” plug that sticks into the same outlet as your toaster and tops up the battery from zilch to full in over 40 hours. That’s untenable, and Toyota knows it. So the automaker has partnered with Leviton to offer a 40-amp charging station for $1,600 that will drop that charge time to five hours over a 220-volt outlet (the same as your clothes drier).
To keep tabs on the flow of electrons, there are two lights mounted in the rear window above the charge port. These tell you if the battery is charging, charged, or if there’s a malfunction. Toyota also offers its Entune app for both Android and IOS that lets you keep tabs on the state of charge remotely.
Out on the road, the RAV has all the road manners you’d expect of a crossover-turned-EV. The steering is light, but the overall tonnage is heavier than its V6 sibling (a little over 200 pounds of added heft). But the extra weight is negated, given the on-demand thrust of the 154 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque driving the front wheels. It gets going quickly and provides further proof that silent, electric drivetrains are an absolute hoot to hoon, even in a 4,000-pound SUV.
But like every other retrofitted EV - a car that’s had its internal combustion excised in favor of an electric drivetrain - the RAV4 EV demands a series of compromises that have more to do with your daily driving habits than the underlying technology.
If you’re anything like me, you use your ‘ute for weekend getaways as well as commuting, and the observed 80-ish-mile range isn’t enough to get you too far, even if there’s a charging station waiting for you at your destination.
However, for someone with a few kids to schlep to school and soccer practice, and a daily commute that doesn’t exceed, say, 60 miles round-trip, the RAV4 EV is a perfect companion, offering zero emissions motoring, cheap fuel, and the solid reliability that Toyota built its brand around. And the fact that it’s got Tesla DNA under its staid sheetmetal makes the RAV4 EV just slightly more compelling… until the real one comes out.
Wired solid foundation. Solid range. Solid build quality. No battery intrusion into the passenger compartment means more space for you and your friends. Sport mode is surprisingly entertaining. Integrated smartphone app makes checking on charging quick and easy.
Tired pricy. Only available in California. 80-100 mile range isn’t enough for weekend jaunts. Recharge times would be quicker with a beefier onboard charger. Isn’t as sleek as the new RAV4. No physical volume control on the stereo, requiring you to press a soft button on the center-mounted touchscreen and fiddle with a dastardly little virtual slider. Advice: Just use the steering wheel controls.