Until this week, the RAV4 EVs of the world were kept alive thanks mostly to the work of the people in Plug In America, some of whom are still driving the all-electric SUVs that were built a decade ago. Today, Toyota and Tesla officially brought the RAV4 EV back to life. A production version should be available in 2012.
Paul Scott, Plug In America's vice president, is one of these old-school RAV4 EV drivers, and he told AutoblogGreen that the announcement is fantastic news. "Having a car as durable and well-designed at the RAV4 with the Tesla drive train, that's the best news I've heard all day," he said. He hasn't driven the current-generation RAV4, but was thinking of taking one for a test drive after he heard the news. With more leg room, better instrumentation and an interior that is "probably a lot more comfortable," he's very excited about an electric version.
Paul's wife and PIA's communications director, Zan Dubin Scott, said:
EV advocate (and ABG columnist) Chelsea Sexton said:The Tesla-Toyota announcement is fascinating. For years now we've been shouting the RAV4 EV's praises, we waved placards in front of dealerships to protest its crushing, and yet Toyota has been among the slowest in new-era EV development. Now, not only are they coming out with an all-electric but it's the RAV4.
Is it for PR? They have an existing, very vocal fan base. But the RAV continues to be an excellent car. It doesn't have the zip or the finish of the Nissan Leaf I drove Wednesday, but I drove it 120 miles without recharging on the freeway at 55-60 mph not long ago. I love the car and it's completely dependable. Like a Toyota....!
In the bigger picture, Paul Scott figures that this means Toyota has "clearly" been working on electric vehicles (EVs) for a long time:I'm waiting to see confirmed details beyond a "fleet of prototypes", but think the general idea is a good one. While the earliest EVs are aiming to occupy distinctive body styles rather than existing gasoline platforms, the RAV4 is a proven, popular body style that's worked very well as an EV in the past and had an incredibly loyal following. Given that Toyota is very much coming from behind in the EV world, it makes sense for them to literally reinvent this particular wheel.
Scott thinks that Toyota's announcement means that the next shoe to drop will be from Honda. "They can sit back and focus on the [hydrogen fuel cell] FCX Clarity, but they are so going to lose market share if they do that," he said. "We know they're going to be the next one to announce [an EV]."It's verification of what we've been saying all along. When we got this car [the original RAV4 EV] 8 years ago, we knew it was going to be technology that the entire world was going to adopt. This car works, it's viable. Over the years, we've had nothing happen to dissuade us of that. Dealing with the lies from the auto industry and the oil industry, we needed to get through that to get to the end game, which is the electrification of the vehicle fleet.
Steve Ellis, Honda Fuel Cell Manager, told AutoblogGreen – kind of cryptically– that Scott may be on to something:
Honda's president Ito has made several comments over the last few months about exploring this and where battery technology is today. There are more announcements to come.
[Source: Plug In America, Honda]