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Toyota RAV4 electric lands with $49,800 price tag, low ambitions

May 7, 2012
Toyota RAV4 EV
Toyota RAV4 EV

Toyota revealed today the somewhat anticipated all-electric version of its RAV4 sport utility vehicle, built in a partnership with EV startup Tesla. Thanks in part to a price tag of $49,800, before a $810 delivery fee. Toyota only expects to sell 2,300 RAV4 EVs over the next three years, mostly in states like California where it has to by law. Last month, Toyota sold that many gas-powered RAV4s in a week.

If the RAV4 had some cache before today, it was due to the hype from Elon Musk and Tesla's involvement, described as a meeting of the minds between Musk and Toyota chief Akio Toyoda. Tesla plans its own all-electric SUV, the Model X, due next year, and the Toyota deal lent a stamp of credibility and acceptance from the rest of the automotive universe to Musk's start-up.

The RAV4 EV does come with some bragging rights. Thanks to Tesla's flat battery pack, it loses no cargo space in the transformation to all-electric power while boosting its performance, hitting 60 mph in 7 seconds. Unlike the spartan electric RAV4s Toyota once sold to Californians, the RAV4 EV will keep all of its creature comforts, including an eight-inch touch screen. And the range of 100 miles compares well with the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EVs, both of which offer less space.

But the limited production, and a sticker price $20,000 greater than a gas-powered variety, signals that Toyota only wants the RAV4 to meet government rules in California and elsewhere requiring EV sales, not attempting the difficult task of building an EV for the masses as Nissan, Tesla and even General Motors are. Like a hypermiler driving as if there's an egg under the accelerator, Toyota will never be accused of going too fast on electric cars.