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In Detail: Toyota RAV4 EV

It’s no secret that our site closely follows every move of Tesla Motors. They have successfully launched an all-electric sports sedan to critical acclaim. They have a stimulating and opinionated CEO that also sends rockets into space. They’re bold enough to challenge the pundits and often come out on top. So, while this story has Toyota in its title, it’s important to note that the RAV 4 EV wouldn’t have been possible without Tesla.
The RAV 4 EV bears Toyota’s surname, but its DNA comes from the Silicon Valley startup, Tesla Motors. With a $50 million investment in 2010, Toyota consummated its relationship with Tesla. Later that year, another $60 million investment was announced with plans of an offspring between the two. With a growing family imminent, Toyota let Tesla move in its defunct NUMMI plant where Toyota had spent the better part of the 1980s through the late 2000s producing cars in a joint venture with GM. The NUMMI plant was perfect for the new partnership: Tesla could keep its operations close to their Palo Alto headquarters and Toyota could make use of a production facility they no longer needed.

What Toyota did need, however, was an all-electric zero-emissions vehicle to be able to continue selling vehicles in California. By 2025, 15.4% of all new cars sold in California must be a zero emissions vehicle (ZEV). In response, automakers are coming out with what the industry is calling “compliance cars,” or cars that satisfy those minimum requirements put forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

While Toyota has the ever-growing Prius arsenal, none of those vehicles are ZEV, so they needed something in the short-term to start building up to that 15.4% fleet requirement. Until 2025, these “compliance cars” will be sold to build up enough credits to use when the legislation goes live.

So why did the collaboration yield an electric compact SUV in the form of a RAV4? RAV4 was chosen because it was already being built in North America (Ontario, Canada), a requirement set by Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda. The RAV4 also had a reasonable amount a space to fix a battery, while allowing for reasonable range. Finally, the RAV4 was already part of an EV program back in the late 90s. 1,500 were produced back then and some are still on the road today.


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