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2013 Toyota RAV4 EV – electric glide machine with room to spare

Even non-electric car geeks can understand the RAV4 EV. It looks like and generally performs like a regular RAV4 crossover sport utility, but is electric-powered instead. Because of this, it is easier for the average person to see it as just another vehicle and while Toyota’s “Tesla project” isn’t exactly mainstream, it’s at least a good showcase of what an EV that could sell well looks like.
The manufacturer says

All electric, all SUV—that’s the 2013 RAV4 EV. Its Lithium-ion battery can be fully charged at home in as little as five hours for an EPA-rated driving range of 103 miles. At the same time, it seats five and has a full 73 cubic feet of cargo capacity for all your gear. You don’t have to sacrifice performance either, because RAV4 EV can accelerate from 0-60 mph in as little as seven seconds.

Manufacturer: Toyota / Tesla Motors
Year, Model: 2013
Class, Type: Crossover
Propulsion system: Battery electric
Vehicle range: 103 miles
Fuel(s): Electricity
Time to refuel: 5-52 hours
Base Price: $49,800
MSRP as tested: $51,180



The RAV4 EV is based on the previous-generation (fifth-generation) RAV4 gasoline platform. This means that while the gasoline model has significantly changed for 2013, the RAV4 EV’s body and chassis have not, retaining the earlier platform’s look and style. This serves to give it a distinct, though dated, look apart from the 2013 RAV4 models despite sharing a model year designation. The RAV4 EV is actually in its second-generation, the earlier model having been discontinued in 2003 due to costs of manufacture and a loss of the NiMH battery patent rights.

This current-generation will be sold in very limited numbers and only in California and some parts of Canada. It is available as a 36-month lease option or as a full purchase and comes with an 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery. The batteries, propulsion motor, and other components of the drive train are supplied by Tesla Motors and are fitted onto “sleds” of the previous-generation RAV4 at Toyota’s plant in Ontario, Canada.

The general impression upon first sitting in one of these electrics is that it’s not really an electric vehicle. If it weren’t for the plates on the running boards, the “EV” badge on the tailgate, and the “EV” etched into the floor mats, you might not realize it’s electric until you look down at the gas gauge and realize it looks a lot like a battery. There are other small differences, but unless you’re actively looking for them, they aren’t very obvious. To compare the RAV4 EV with its gasoline counterpart (2012 RAV4) is probably the best way to visualize this for most people unfamiliar with electric driving.

For starters, the seating, cargo space, and just about everything else in the interior is exactly the same. So are the wheels, most of the chassis, and all the rest. Only three things are different, outside of the powertrain itself: the EV emblems, the better handling, and the lower ground clearance. Although everyone notices the first (which is why they’re there), only a few will really notice the second and almost nobody who owns one of these (or its gasoline counterpart) will note the latter. After all, these crossover/SUVs are rarely (if ever) taken offroad on anything more than a hard packed dirt track, which frankly any car with more than two inches of clearance can handle.


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