What Toyota did need, however, was an all-electric zero-emissions vehicle to be able to continue selling vehicles in California. By 2025, 15.4% of all new cars sold in California must be a zero emissions vehicle (ZEV). In response, automakers are coming out with what the industry is calling "compliance cars," or cars that satisfy those minimum requirements put forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
While Toyota has the ever-growing Prius arsenal, none of those vehicles are ZEV, so they needed something in the short-term to start building up to that 15.4% fleet requirement. Until 2025, these "compliance cars" will be sold to build up enough credits to use when the legislation goes live.
So why did the collaboration yield an electric compact SUV in the form of a RAV4? RAV4 was chosen because it was already being built in North America (Ontario, Canada), a requirement set by Toyota's CEO Akio Toyoda. The RAV4 also had a reasonable amount a space to fix a battery, while allowing for reasonable range. Finally, the RAV4 was already part of an EV program back in the late 90s. 1,500 were produced back then and some are still on the road today.
This time around the EV has unexpected guts. The RAV4's ground clearance allows for the massive slab of battery cells to be packaged under the floor, without requiring major changes to the interior of the vehicle. This huge space let engineers pack in a lithium ion pack with 41.8 kWh of energy--more than the base battery in the Model S. And speaking of the Model S, the RAV4 EV has the same electric motor, but detuned, of course. 154 hp might not sound like a lot, but it's important to make the distinction that it power comes from an AC induction electric motor, which feels much different than 154 hp from a gas engine.
In addition to the large battery, engineers sought to shave the drag coefficient from .35 to a car-like .30. The side-view mirrors were taken directly from the Korean Camry, to save on drag. The result is an EPA-rated range of 103 miles; 78 MPGe city, 74 MPGe highway, and 76 MPGe combined. Far from the Honda Fit EV's 118 MPGe, but considering the size, we'd say this is pretty good.
Charging times are just 6 hours on a 240V quick charging station. Unfortunately, Tesla Supercharging will not be available.
Toyota and Tesla will only make 2,600 units through the end of 2014, based on the 2012 RAV4, not the all-new 2013 redesign. The price will be $49,800, pre-incentive. Incentives include a $2,500 rebate through California's Clean Vehicle rebate program and a $7,500 Federal Tax Credit. Another incentive includes access to California's HOV lane, which surprisingly has been working well for other EVs. Those who would rather lease can get a 36-month lease for $599 per month with $3,499 due at signing.
We're excited to see more EVs on the road, regardless of their sales plan. Increase in public awareness, advances in technology, and more options for EV buyers will only further the adoption of this technology. We applaud the successful partnership of the two very different companies, and hope that the shared lessons will only serve to strengthen future green-conscious collaborations in the automotive industry.