Toyota RAV4 EV – Click above for high-res image gallery

In early August, we reported that initial sales of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV will be limited to the state of California. That revelation came straight from the mouth of Bob Carter, group vice-president and general manager of Toyota Motor U.S. Limiting sales to California raised eyebrows, including those of the folks over at Plugin Cars who speculate that Toyota is releasing the RAV4 EV in large part just to please the powers that be at the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Plugin Cars says the timing of the electric RAV4's launch, coupled with its anticipated limited production volume suggests Toyota is aiming to satisfy CARB's Zero-Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Next year, ZEV credits accumulated by Toyota from the 1997-2003 RAV4 EV will expire, as CARB opens the 2012-2014 chapter of its ZEV mandate. This phase will require a fresh batch of plug-ins (or the purchasing of ZEV credits from other manufacturers) from automakers to meet ZEV obligations; Plugin Cars speculates the 2012 RAV4 EV will be one of those vehicles.

Officially, Toyota told Plugin Cars that it has not announced "production volume" for the 2012 electric RAV4 and Jana Hartline, Toyota's environmental communications manager, told AutoblogGreen that:
Toyota will meet our ZEV credits mandate with a combination of conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The specific year-by-year combinations are flexible and will depend largely on market response and infrastructure development. As was the case with the first generation RAV4 EV, the market will ultimately decide.
Toyota also says it "does not disclose information" regarding ZEV credits, but if we assume Toyota will have to sell approximately 690 electric vehicles in California a year from 2012-2014 and that the estimated production of the electric RAV4 is 3,000 units over that same three-year period, then it would seem California will get the bulk of the RAV4s. Of course, this is speculative, but definitely something worth keeping in mind as automakers launch numerous plug-ins over the next couple of years.

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