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?