Toyota has stepped outside its box, joining forces in a unique collaboration with Tesla Motor Corporation in sharing technology rather than exclusive development in house – particularly battery technology. This association was inspired by Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation. The development project resulting from this alliance is the all-electric 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV – claimed to be the world’s most aerodynamic SUV. It’s also quick, with a zero to sixty mph time of seven seconds. It is expected to achieve an average range of 100 miles from a full charge, and can be completely recharged in approximately six hours utilizing a 240V/40A charger.
According to Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, “The RAV4 EV’s driving performance, dynamics and cargo capacity are equal to or exceed the gas-powered RAV4 V6. Arriving fully-equipped (there are no options) with an MSRP of $49,800 (add $810 for Destination and Handling), with available combined federal and state incentives of up to $10,000, the RAV4 EV is a practical, versatile option for the EV enthusiast.”
Development from announcement to production took a mere twenty-two months, when the vehicle was revealed at Electric Vehicle Symposium 26 in May of this year. To effectively manage and adhere to such a compressed timetable, Toyota and Tesla engineers devised the eFAST process (early field and suitability testing) a totally new protocol put in place specifically for the RAV4 EV to ensure confirmation and validation of the vehicle.
The RAV4 EV combines a Tesla designed and produced battery and electric powertrain with Toyota’s most popular SUV model. The joint team focused on optimizing the consumer experience from remote charging options to interior comfort and convenience, along with futuristic interactive displays by combining the practical features of an SUV with aerodynamic styling and an electric powertrain for the longest estimated driving range rating of any non-luxury EV.
The drag coefficient is the lowest of any SUV in the world at 0.30 Cd, and it also features a low center of gravity with its centered, under-floor mounted battery pack. Motive force is generated by an AC induction motor mounted up front, driving the front wheels with fixed-gear open-differential trans-axle gear ratio of 9.73 with two drive modes: Normal and Sport. Power comes from a Lithium Ion battery pack (41.8 kWh) weighing in at just over 800 pounds, with 129 kW max power output / 386V max voltage that produces ZEV emissions. Horsepower is rated at 154 (115Kw) maximum, with pound feet of torque rated at 218 in Normal mode and 273 in Sport mode.
The RAV4 travels from 0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds in Sport mode and has a top track speed of 100 mph. The Normal model delivers a 0-60 mph time of 8.6 seconds with a maximum top end of 85 mph. There are two charge modes: Standard and Extended. In the Standard mode, the battery charges up to 35 kWh, with an expected range rating of 92 miles. The Extended charge mode allows charging to the full capacity of 41.8 kWh, with an anticipated range of 113 miles.
EV range optimization may be controlled through the selection of specific operational modes for the climate control system; Normal; ECO LO; and ECO HI, with the latter achieving the most efficient operation. A unique Toyota/Tesla designed cooperative regenerative braking system serves to minimize the vehicle’s kinetic energy loss when slowing or stopping, increasing the driving by up to 20 percent. At a 50% state of charge, the RAV4 can sit without charging for approximately one year, with no permanent loss of function. Should the battery pack become depleted, its 12-volt battery will allow the vehicle to turn on and shift to neutral. A 12A charging cable is provided for instances when the recommended 240V level 2 charging is not available.
Safety features of the RAV4 EV include: Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control; Traction Control; ABS; EBD; Brake Assist; and Smart Stop Technology, along with several redundant systems that automatically protect against the unintentional discharge of energy. The battery pack is also shielded from possible impact.
In terms of exterior design execution, the RAV4 EV displays a similar form, but showcases different styling cues to set it apart from the gas-powered RAV4, such as upscale LED low beam projector headlights with halogen high beam projectors. A manual leveling system allows the driver to redirect the headlights to adjust for varying loads. Five vertical LEDs make up the driving lights, which dim to parking lights. Rear combination lights are LEDs accented by a unique smoke-tinted outer lens. There are also new exterior emblems on the front, rear, and front door panel in Toyota’s signature “environmental blue”. Three exterior colors are available: Blizzard Pearl; Shoreline Blue Pearl; and Classic Silver metallic. Fleet units will be available in Super White.
No interior space is lost due to EV componentry. The IntelliTouch capacitive touch screen is the focal point of the cabin, featured on both the 8-inch navigation screen and climate control panel. The screen is Hi-Res with responsive touch and a state-of-the-art graphic display, with split-screen capability for navigation, Entune and EV smart phone applications. In addition, there’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth streaming audio and a USB port with iPod connectivity. The multi-information screen display can scroll through six different screens providing driver performance information. The interior features a unique “Neutron” fabric, woven with a subtle sheen and blue accent on the seats and door trim.
Driving the 2013 RAV4 EV is pretty much like driving a conventional auto, except for the quietness of operation (no exhaust note – or tailpipe for that matter) and the incredible level of torque off the line. Obviously, one has to pay attention to the range when planning long distance travel or even a commute, noting recharging locations.
Acceleration is phenomenal from a standing start or when merging onto a freeway via a ramp. High performance cars beware, the RAV4 EV is capable of blowing off your doors when taking off from a stop. The steering felt a little numb initially, but was actually very responsive, and overall, the handling bordered on sporty, with the ride quality being quite comfortable. Visibility is good from within, and the folding rear seat backs add to versatility and functionality.
Toyota is planning on building 2,600 units over a three year period, and the RAV4 EV will initially only be available in California, where It is expected to qualify for a $2,500 rebate through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program in California and is also eligible for a $7,500 Federal Tax Credit. In addition, it will qualify for the California High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane white sticker program. Sales will expand to other locations at a later date. The RAV4 EV will be built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Inc. in Woodstock, Ontario.