Toyota RAV4 Electric SUV: A $50,000 toy or statement?

Are you ready to pony up nearly $50,000 for the Tesla Motors influenced RAV4 EV? 

Toyota hopes you are, as it recently unveiled the highly anticipated, all-electric SUV at the 26th annual Electric Vehicle Symposium in Los Angeles. Price for the vehicle specifically is $49,800, which can be pushed downwards with tax credits.

Toyota said the RAV4 EV will offer drivers a range of approximately 100 miles and a charging time of around six hours on a 240V/40A charger.

It will go on-sale initially in four California markets – Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles/Orange County and San Diego – in late summer, and the automaker projects sales volume over the next three years to be around 2,600 models sold.

Now the nearly $50,000 sticker shock will fade for some when the $10,000 in tax credits are applied, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which could make it a little more competitive with other EV offerings such as the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric.

But what exactly do you get for $39,800? Its maker, for starters, says this electric vehicle “combines a Tesla designed and produced battery and electric powertrain with Toyota’s most popular SUV model.” Considering the base price for the 22/28 MPG 2012 model RAV4 is $22,600, it will definitely be an early adopter focus the electric version looks to go after.

As Forbes states so eloquently in its headline “In RAV4 EV, Toyota Has Luxury Of Not Caring If You Buy One,” the vehicle could really just be a niche product for some time to come. Considering this is one of the first true mainstream attempts at an all-electric vehicle that isn’t a car, is this the right strategy for Toyota to take? Could it quickly capture dominate market share in a nascent EV SUV market that has possible pent up consumer demand? A quote from Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division, offers some possible insight:

“We believe that the RAV4 EV will attract sophisticated early technology adopters, much like the first-generation Prius,” said Carter. “It’s designed for consumers who prioritize the environment and appreciate performance. We look forward to seeing how the market responds.”

Toyota said the RAV4 EV “allows drivers to select from two distinctly different drive modes,” one of which allows for the vehicle to go 0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds, with a maximum speed of 100 mph. The other option puts the vehicle at 0-60 mph in 8.6 seconds, with a maximum speed of 85 mph.  Maximum output from the electric powertrain is 154 HP (115kW) @ 2,800 rpm.

In order to make the vehicle as aerodynamic as possible, Toyota has redesigned the front bumper, upper and lower grill, side mirrors, rear spoiler, and under body design to maximize air flow. The RAV4 EV also sports LED low beam projector headlights with halogen projector high beams and a manual leveling system that the automaker says allows customers to redirect the headlights when the vehicle “changes significantly in pitch due to a heavy load.”

Interior creature comforts, according to Toyota, include a six-way adjustable driver’s seat with variable front seat heaters; split reclining rear seats with folding center arm rest; a total cargo capacity equivalent to the conventional RAV4 of 73 cu. ft.; and an eight-inch capacitive touch screen for  navigation, telematics, and EV drive information and settings designed specifically for this SUV.

Toyota is working with Leviton, an electric vehicle supplier equipment provider, for in-home charging solutions for the RAV4 EV. A custom 240V (Level 2), 40A, 9.6 kW output charging station is what will provide the electric SUV the six hour charging time. The vehicle also comes with a 120V (Level 1) emergency charging cable for instances when the recommended Level 2 charging is not available.

The timeline for the development of the RAV4 EV has been about two years, starting first with an EV partnership between Toyota and Tesla. Fast forward to today and honestly, EarthTechling readers, it is a little hard to get excited about this. We love the idea of electric cars in general, but hoped as well this vehicle might be more geared towards a general audience. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this EV in the comments below.

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling