The Easy Way Out: Toyota Announces $49,800 RAV4 EV


File this next story under Half-Baked.

Yesterday, Toyota finally announced the crucial details for its RAV4 EV joint project with Tesla Motors first announced almost two years ago. And what does Toyota have to show for two years, and $100 million (at least) of investment? A $49,800 all-electric SUV with 100 miles of range. Toyota expects to sell just 2,600 of these in the next three years.

I wonder why?

There is no doubt in my mind that Toyota is better than this. Toyota is THE leader hybrid car technology and sales. Over a decade after the Prius debuted, there is still no other gasoline car that comes even close to that kind of fuel efficiency. With the Prius C and Prius V, Toyota has widened the fuel economy gap to a canyon. I may not like Toyota, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to cars.

So what gives with the RAV4 EV? It seems so…quaint. 100 miles of range, for $50,000? It seems far-fetched that Tesla and Toyota couldn’t do better, especially given the fact that for the same price (after tax credits), you can get a Tesla Model X with 230 miles of range. Sounds to me like Toyota just needed Tesla to do the heavy lifting, and Tesla was more than happy to produce an inferior product to its own offering.

In other words, this is not a serious attempt at selling an electric RAV4. This is, as many are already calling it, a “compliance car”, designed and built to meet California’s zero-emissions vehicle regulations. The RAV4 will go on sale in select markets, all of them in California, later on in the summer.

After the $7,500 tax credit, the price will come down to $42,300, which is still a bitter pill to swallow (just ask GM). For that kind of scrilla, why not just get a fully-loaded version of Toyota’s own Prius V?

It saddens me to see Toyota cheapen itself with such a half-baked effort. Obviously, real-world performance matters, and a consistent 100 miles of range would be enough mileage for 95% of real-world trips. Also, 0-60 mph in “Sport” mode takes just 7.0 seconds. Even in “Normal”, the sprint from 0-60 is an average 8.6 seconds. From a 240V charging station, the RAV4 EV will take about six hours to fully charge. The drag co-efficient of .30 gives it the lowest drag of any SUV in the world…and lower than many cars too. So in fairness to Toyota, it sounds like they really have created an electric vehicle with performance more on par with its gas counterpart. That is worth something…but is it worth the cost in range?

The really disappointing thing to me is that Toyota’s freshman effort at an all-electric RAV4 offered similar performance, at least in terms of mileage. People tend to focus on critical numbers like range. 100 miles in an SUV means a lot more reliance on remote charging stations for family trips

Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe Toyota just wasn’t ambitious enough. What say you readers?

Source: Toyota

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • Nail on the head. With all of the luxury features going into Tesla’s Model X, Toyota’s math doesn’t add up for justifying that price when comparing the two, even without tax credits. What a sham.

  • Marc P.

    I just can’t, for the life of me, understand why there aren’t more companies taking the Volt’s approach. It seems like such a no brainer !!!

    Give it a 50 mile range instead of 100 and a small gas engine that powers a generator for another 400 miles of range. Voilà, you’ve got a mass appeal vehicle !! What am I missing here ???

    I’ve read that the Volt, even when it’s running ONLY on gas and it’s generator can get around 1.5 to 2.5L for every 100 kms if driven lightly and only moderately higher when driven hard. Heck, that blows away everything on the road today… including all of Toyota’s hybrids !

    Why not forget the battery all together and just use the generator part and electric motor.

    Please, someone, tell me what I’m missing here ! Is there an advantage of deliberately shooting yourself in the foot ???

    • Charles Inglin

      I agree. The Volt series hybrid design seems to me to be the way to go, at least until batteries achieve higher energy density and quick charge capability, and the infrastructure to support that is in place. The problem, I assume, is that a design like the Volt is inherently more expensive, since in addition to the cost of the batteries you have the not inconsiderable cost of the gas engine/generator. I would think, though, that they could reduce costs with a mass produced, compact, specialized engine/generator. One advantage of the series hybrid is that the engine/generator can be designed to run steadily at its most efficient speed, which should simplify the design.

    • steve a

      I completely agree. I don’t have a volt but I have driven one and it is a good experience. On an engineering side the fact is that the generator approach takes the least predictable set of variables (the mismatch between driven road variability and non-linearity of IE engine) and makes those more contained. I’d like to see the math analysis of these situations but my intuition is that there is reason is blows it out of the water…

      • steve a

        correction IC motor.

  • Pingback: Los Angeles, Now the ELECTRIC Car Capital of America | EVS26()

  • RideTheFuture

    On Earth Day 2000 I saw the RAV 4EV Version I and asked the dealer about the cost.
    I was quoted around 25 k minus tax credit around 16 k !! The dealer sticker price, when it appeared in show rooms, blew it right out of my income bracket….44 k!!
    The range was the same, the recharge time more or less as well….what – on earth – happened in 10 years of technological advancements ?
    No, these are political decisions, not scientific or progress-oriented circumstances.
    Oh, and: E-bikes in Brazil just got limited down to 12 miles per hour or so… they just MUST keep that Jeannie in the bottle, don’t they??
    For how much longer? Until the Amazon’s gone? Tell that to our grandkids….shame on us– and our so called “leaders”!

    • This is kind of a strange post, so I want to address its points 1 by 1.

      1. dealers don’t determine the cost of new cars, and (often) will not be made aware of a new car’s sticker until the car is out of pre-production stages. The dealer that quoted you 25K made that number up on the spot, very obviously, and made no sense. Shame on you for believing him, too! A high-end Rav4 was over 25K, even 10 years ago – how do you think Toyota would deliver new tech in a highly-developed, low-production model for LESS than a standard model?

      2. these are NOT political decisions. Try to build some low-volume production cars and let me know what you learn.

      3. EBikes are NOT electric motorcycles, and electric/motorized pedal bikes are limited to a given top speed in Europe, Japan, and many US states, as well. This has always been the case, and it’s never been an issue of keeping Genies in bottles – it’s about keeping CHILDREN from making stupid “kid” decisions and killing themselves on their way to school.

      4. the Amazon has nothing to do with EVs, and very little to do with oil. The big automotive impact there is in rubber production, and EVs use just as much tire (if not MORE!) than standard cars.

  • Pingback: Toyota Rav4 EV Lease Will Cost $599 A Month - Gas 2()