Green Update: New Toyota RAV4 EV for Sale, with Some Restrictions

Toyota RAV4 EV, front-quarter view

The 2013 RAV4 EV is a pretty nice car. With Tesla-made battery and powertrain, it gives you good power, a 100-mile range, classy interior and equipment, and plenty of room. Read here a short version of its features.

However, there are a few—let us call them—restrictions. The biggest is price: a whopping $50,610, including destination charge and not including Federal and California tax rebates, which can knock off $10 grand. A very mid-level car with a luxury pricetag.

The second restriction is that it’s available in only four California regions: Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles/Orange County and San Diego. The company expects to sell a mere 2,600 over three years.

The third restriction is that this is clearly a so-called “compliance car,” built to sell only in small numbers to satisfy California’s zero-emissions requirements. The law essentially requires that in order to sell cars in the state, a carmaker has to build at least some few ZEVs.

Toyota RAV4 EV, dashboardA new amendment to the law, still under advisement, requires that by 2025 15.4 percent of all cars sold in the state must be ZEVs (plug-ins, EVs or fuel-cell cars). If the state follows through, that will put “serious strains” on dealers, infrastructure, other states, you name it. The implications are vast.

Green Car Reports’ John Voelcker recently gave a good blast to the industry and its phony commitments to build EVs. He included the RAV4 EV as one of these fake efforts, saying Toyota “just doesn’t believe in” battery-electric cars. The law itself is also very much misconceived if it permits these kinds of workarounds.

The long and short is that California is the single largest car market in the U.S. and that most makers are just dangling their feet in the EV water. The exceptions are the Volt and Leaf, which indeed are built to sell in a mass market, even if they aren’t making much headway.

The RAV4 EV is basically a redesign of the gas-powered version with the new electric stuff transplanted by Tesla. One of the clues that the car is simply not ready for prime time is its charging capability. A full charge via the optional 240-volt charger takes 6 hours, we are told. No time is given for the onboard 110-volt charge system. It probably takes two days.

Read more on the EV debacle in California here and here. This is clearly becoming not just a California problem.

Is the “phony” RAV4 EV yet another disaster in the development of electric and plug-in vehicles?


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  1. Randy
    May 9th, 2012 at 10:03 | #1

    This story and what is going on in California is a prime example of how distorted and bizarre things can get when government runs amok. (As well as a good example of America’s “fake” free-market economy, which is actually very tightly controlled and manipulated by the government and the rich power brokers who run it from the background.)
    Just compare this car with a Toyota Prius, which is an example of a technology that Toyota believes in and has become the very best at designing and producing. Since we know a Tesla battery pack costs about $40,000 (as per CarGuru’s previous articles) and this car is priced at $50,000, and also has a lot of low-production hand-built equipment in the car and high development costs, I reckon Toyota is losing about $30,000 per vehicle. But for Toyota, one of the top California sellers, that’s the price to do business in California.

    In a real free market econmy, Califonians would be left to choke in their own effluence. Instead, the state is allowed to force manufacturers to build cars at a loss and sell them in such small numbers that they will have NO effect on California’s air pollution problems. Wouldn’t it be much better to take all those tax incentives to help reduce the cost of ULEV vehicles like Prius and/or plug-in vehicles to get more out in the marketplace? The real problem in California isn’t new cars, it’s the millions of older cars driven by people who can’t afford an EV.

  2. panayoti
    May 8th, 2012 at 15:58 | #2

    As long as politics remains a divisive force in our country, we will continue to see stuff like this inundate the news cycle on a daily basis. Too bad. At one time I was a big believer that the EV was our answer to OPEC fealty. Politics entered the equation polarizing and poisoning any hopes of real progress in this area. Now technology has entered the equation with yet another polarizing facet. Fracking and natural gas abundance will ultimately kill whatever progress was being made in battery research with its promise of cheap and abundant fuel sources for the foreseeable future. Why spend money on research when gasoline is $1.19/gal or oil is $20/bbl or nat gas is $1.99/mcf?? If the cost penalty is gone and fuel sources are cheap and abundant, why bother?

    Although I wasn’t very pleased with the progress of strong funding for battery R&D, I had hoped that the science was moving in the right direction. Unless politics again kills the rational move toward nat gas, I feel that the EV and its original promise will be relegated to the back burner, much like the promise of clean coal and nuclear. To make matters even worse the tree huggers are now fighting amongst themselves about how far to the right or left the movement should go. Go figure!

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