LOS ANGELES -- More than a decade after Toyota ended production of the original RAV4 EV, Toyota has joined forces with electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors to develop a new one.
The new RAV4 EV has a higher-tech battery, better range and higher performance than the first-generation model, according to Toyota.
The basics: Unlike past Toyota electric vehicles, the RAV4 EV uses a lithium ion battery pack from Tesla. Toyota says its real world 100-mile range really means 170 miles on the so-called LA4 driving cycle test. That test is biased toward urban driving conditions and low speeds.
In sport mode, 0 to 60 mph time is seven seconds and top speed is 100 mph -- but there's a sacrifice on range. In normal mode, 0 to 60 mph takes about nine seconds and top speed is limited to 85 mph.
To take load off the battery, there are three modes for climate control. Normal and Eco-Hi maintain the car's temperature as desired, but in a test drive Eco-Lo struggled to keep the inside cool in 80-degree Southern California.
The RAV4 EV gets a different front fascia, as well as a rear spoiler that helps drop the coefficient of drag to a slippery 0.30 -- similar to sedans and well below the 0.35 of the standard RAV4.
Notable features: Maybe because of the media hammering Tesla has received for "bricking"-- fully depleted battery packs unable to be recharged -- Toyota has engineered the 800-pound battery pack that can sit idle for a year from a 50 percent charge level without becoming fully depleted.
The vehicle's crash structure has been strengthened from the stock RAV4 to offer increased battery, inverter and motor protection.
The navigation system screen also will display the charging status and schedule, driving efficiency and a map overlay of the vehicle's range that includes charging stations.
With a 240-volt charger it takes about six hours to recharge the battery pack. The process will take 44 hours using a 120-volt wall plug.
On the practical side, the battery pack does not encroach on the RAV4's cargo space.
What Toyota says: "We wanted to break the myth of EVs being boring and requiring sacrifices," said Greg Bernas, RAV4 EV chief engineer.
Compromises and shortcomings: There is no "quick charge" capability with the car, mostly because a lack of infrastructure makes it unnecessary. The battery warranty covers functionality, but not degradation of the battery's capacity. There is no towing capacity.
The vehicle is so quiet that during a test drive a jaywalking pedestrian, talking to a friend, walked smack into the car's front quarter panel.
The market: Toyota plans to sell or lease 2,600 units over the next three years, starting in late summer. Sales will be restricted to California initially but may expand to Massachusetts and New York. Marketing slogans will be: "All electric ... All SUV," and "Amazingly practical ... Practically amazing."
The skinny: An electric crossover will be a favorite of the grocery-to-Home-Depot crowd. Meanwhile, we'll see about Toyota's claim of 100 miles of real world range when the vehicle hits the market.