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Toyota RAV4 EV demonstrates the potential for an electric SUV

A smooth-running Toyota RAV4 that does not consume gasoline is now at dealerships, and we recently borrowed one to sample at our test track. And so far, we’re seeing real appeal in an electric sport-ute.

The RAV4 EV is derived from the current small SUV. Although the highly rated RAV4 will be replaced by a completely redesigned RAV next spring, this electric version will be sold over three years. Toyota plans to build just 2,600 examples only.

The electric bits come from electric-carmaker Tesla, including a sizable 41.8-kWh lithium-ion battery, and they are matched with a motor driving the front wheels good for 154 hp. Toyota says the RAV4 EV has been EPA rated with a 103-mile range, but a company representative said drivers should expect a real-world range of typically around 115 miles–well beyond current electric cars in our experience. Charge times are claimed to be as little as 5 hours from a 240V power supply and as much as 52 hours from a standard 120V outlet. That may not sound impressive but considering the battery size it is, and that’s thanks to a 10-kWh on-board charger.

To maximize efficiency, aerodynamic aids include smaller outside mirrors, a smoother front fascia, larger rear spoiler, and underbody panels to improve airflow. Toyota says that no interior passenger or cargo room is lost to the electrical components, although the rear-mounted spare on conventional models is gone to save weight; it is replaced with a can of aerosol sealant.

Based on our initial experience behind the wheel, the overall driving experience is much like a conventional RAV4 despite the 400-pound plus weight penalty over a V6 model. Initial thrust is punchy, with quiet, continuous power. There is little driveline whine or other odd noises. Ride and handling are pretty close to the conventional RAV. Brakes are smooth and linear, with none of the jerkiness or grabby feel sometimes experienced with regenerative braking systems.

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