Proudly "Powered by Tesla," the brand-new Toyota RAV4 EV made its debut at the LA Auto Show today, and it's pretty much what you'd expect: a current-generation RAV4 with the heart of a Tesla Roadster. Or maybe a Model S. In any case, one of Silicon Valley's electric cars. As we've known, Tesla's role in the partnership is to develop the powertrain – including the battery, power electronics module, electric motor, gearbox and software – for Toyota's popular CUV.
The RAV4 EV has a long history, as long-time plug-in vehicle fans are well aware. The first-gen version arrived in 1997 and was available for six years. Toyota said today that it sold or leased 1,484 units during that time – and that nearly 750 of them are still in operation – but could never make them a mainstream hit like the Prius. Making these alternative-power vehicles isn't that difficult, said Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Sales' president and chief operating officer, the hard part is bringing them to mainstream customers.
This is the goal of the RAV4 EV, which is scheduled to hit the market in 2012. The initial batch of test vehicles, the so-called Phase Zero machines, are already achieving 100 miles of range, but Toyota engineers are working hard to make sure that the Phase One vehicles (i.e., the next batch) will be able to reach that number no matter what the climate or outside condition is – or, in the words of the press release, "in a wide range of climates and conditions." The engineering team is also focused on drivability and making the electric CUV feel, "as close to a conventional RAV4 as possible." We'll have a more complete post about the RAV4 EV later, but for now you can find plenty more information on Toyota's dedicated RAV4 EV website and check it out from every angle in the gallery below.