California was early with environmental requirements for cars. In the 1990s, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) issued a pretty strict requirement: automakers who still wanted to sell cars in the state had to ensure that two percent of all new cars delivered in California are zero-emissions. That percentage would then gradually be increased to 5 percent in 2001 and 10 percent in 2003. Later this strict requirement was weakened, partly due to the insistence of General Motors, so that the electric cars were no longer necessary for the manufacturers to be able to sell cars in California. .
To meet California’s initial requirement, Toyota came up with the RAV4 EV, based on the first generation of the RAV4. It was sold here in the Netherlands under the name Funcruiser. Compared to the regular RAV4, the RAV4 EV can be recognized by the lack of an exhaust and the ‘EV’ letters on the front doors. Furthermore, he does not differ from his relative with combustion engine. Unfortunately, the number ‘4’ in the name RAV4 is no longer valid, because the RAV4 EV has front-wheel drive. A 67 hp and 190 Nm electric motor, which can be seen below, provides the propulsion.
The electric motor gets its power from a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery with a capacity of 27.4 kWh. According to the American EPA test cycle, the electric RAV4 thus reached a maximum distance of 153 kilometers on one battery charge. The RAV4 EV weighing more than 1,500 kilograms was not very smooth. The sprint to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) took 18 seconds. After a lot of patience, the car was able to reach a top speed of 137 km/h. At that rate, you naturally drain the battery in record time. Charging took place via an induction charger at the front of the car, which filled the battery with fresh power in about 5 hours.
A second attempt
The RAV4 EV was initially not for sale to the ordinary consumer. Toyota only supplied it to companies and other agencies through lease contracts. It was not until 2002 that private individuals were able to purchase a RAV4 with plug for the sweet sum of $ 42,000, at the current exchange rate converted € 38,158. Due to all kinds of subsidies, that amount went down to $ 29,000, converted € 26,347. There was certainly interest in the electric RAV4, but at the end of 2002 Toyota pulled the plug. The reason? The patent for the NiMH battery had come into the hands of the American oil company Chevron. Guess who then wanted to secure their own sales market and killed the sale of cars with such batteries. It marked the end of the first RAV4 EV.
Toyota’s first attempt to market an electric car was thus thwarted by the fossil fuel industry. Eight years after the disappearance of the first electric RAV4, the Japanese wanted to try again. To this end, Toyota joined forces with Tesla, which will develop an electric powertrain for the SUV for a payment of 60 million dollars. The fruit of that collaboration came to lie in the third generation RAV4. In 2010, Toyota and Tesla showed the fruit of that collaboration: the second RAV4 EV. In 2012, the electric SUV with Tesla genes finally went into production. It was once again only for sale in California.
The second RAV4 EV differs from the regular RAV4 with its closed grille and a different rear bumper without exhaust. Toyota was clearly proud of the electric powertrain, as the car was peppered with ‘EV’ and ‘Electric’ logos. Inside, the electric RAV4 had a gear selector for the automatic transmission that was also found in the Prius. The driver could keep an eye on the remaining driving range via a partly digital dashboard.
With a power of 156 hp, the second RAV4 EV was a lot smoother than the first. From now on, the sprint to 96 km/h was completed in just 7 seconds. The power supply came from a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 41.8 kWh, good for an EPA range of 166 kilometers. That is not notably much further than the first RAV4 EV.
The end, but still not
After only two years, Toyota decided in 2014 to end its collaboration with Tesla. The American EV builder wanted to continue with the Japanese brand, but Toyota eventually saw more benefit in fuel cell technology. That also marked the end of the RAV4 EV, of which a total of 2,489 copies were built.
We now know that Toyota has backtracked on the decision to abandon the battery-electric car. Seven years after the disappearance of the RAV4 EV, the brand came up with the electric SUV bZ4X. This bZ series will be further supplemented in the future with a whole can of new electric models from Toyota. In retrospect, given the current trend in the market, Toyota might have been better off continuing its partnership with Tesla. The RAV4 EV was ahead of the pack and that’s why it deserves a spot in the spotlight.