Friday, July 16, 2010

RAV Resurrection

There was a rumor recently that Telsa had converted a new model of Toyota's popular RAV4 into an EV. Today, Toyota announced that Tesla will supply the drive train for a resurrected RAV4 EV, possibly to be built at the recently purchased NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. This is the giant 5 million sq. ft. plant that was the subject of a fascinating story on This American Life in March.

This is really good news for the EV community since the RAV EV has been the most reliable EV from the ZEV mandate days of the late 90s and early 2000s. It also gives consumers a great option if what the family needs is a reasonably sized vehicle that can haul stuff. Both the Nissan Leaf and GM Chevy Volt are great cars, but there is clearly a market for SUVs out there.

Here we are taking possession of our brand new RAV on winter solstice, 2002.

Our experience with the RAV has been nothing short of amazing. The car just works. Other than replacing the shocks at 60K miles, and consumables like tires, aux batteries and wiper blades, there has been virtually no maintenance or parts in 8 years and 84,000 miles.

Some RAV drivers have had their battery packs replaced, but they averaged about 120,000-130,000 miles before doing so.

I can't tell you how many times I've plugged my car in at a public charger and had people engage me in a long conversation about what this vehicle means to society and then express the burning desire to get one just like it. It's happened hundreds of times over the years and each time, I had to tell them, nope, can't do it, they destroyed hundreds of them, and the remaining 800 or so RAV EVs are all there would ever be.

Now I can tell them to wait a year or so and they'll not only be able to buy a RAV EV, but it'll be powered by a Tesla drive train with, we can assume, a LiIon battery pack. We don't know pricing or performance specs, all that will come in due time, but the importance of this announcement is that Toyota is getting back in the EV game. We'll have to update Plug In America's vehicle tracker page to list this popular model.

This leaves Honda as the lone hold out. They are still claiming their Clarity fuel cell vehicle is the end game of alt-fuel vehicles. But as more and more EVs are announced for delivery in the next two years, it seems as the game might end with fuel cell vehicles forever in the on-deck circle, never getting a chance to step up to the plate and bat.


  1. I wonder: once electric vehicles are the norm, as they are soon to be - it seems, how fast will the perks (like free charging) disappear?

  2. Wow, what great news, makes a lot of sense too since Toyota is so far behind the in plug-in revolution. Catchup is simple, invest in Tesla and do what they did so well a decade ago...

    "I guess our problem was, we built too good of an electric vehicle."
    -- Gary Smith Corporate manager, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., 2008.

    RAV4 EV: Exceeding Expectations

  3. Great news Paul -- are you going to get one?

    A quick question about battery life and replacement:

    -- How much has it cost the RAV4 EV owners who've replaced the battery pack to replace it?

    -- How low can the overall battery charging capacity go before you have to replace an EV battery pack?

  4. When I saw this announcement earlier, Paul, I thought instantly of you, and how happy you and Zan must be. It really is a cause for celebration.

  5. Andy, free charging will last for a while, but gradually fade out some as millions of cars are on the roads. It'll depend on how quickly the utilities start charging higher rates for kWh used during peak times. Off peak will probably stay free for a long time since it's so cheap.

    Christof, the replacement batteries for the NiMH packs in the RAV were leftovers from Toyota's crushing of some 600 low mileage, perfectly functional RAV. None are new. We have to pay $15,000 for a new pack and ship the car to Sacramento to get it installed since that's the only location in the world that has the batteries.

    The new EVs will use LiIon that is already half that cost and dropping fast. By the time you have to replace a LiIon pack, the price might be as little as $4K-$5K.

    We're hope to get over 100,000 miles and at least 7-8 years. Anything above that is gravy.

  6. Finally Toyota! I hope this time they are pushing their efforts with all financial and technogical power!

    Magnificent news Paul! Please place your current 'old' RAV4 EV next to a new one when it arrives in the showrooms to show them that it all would have possible years ago with a little more determination and bravery on the side of OEMs. Hopefully now the time has come for post-fossil mobility to stay!!

    Best wishes from Germany,

    Jens (

  7. This is a great milestone for both companies, and as I wrote in my email to you Paul, I hope the two NEVER become synonymous. We need to make sure the Elon reads Gary Erickson's (found of Clif Bar) book, Raising the Bar. Very important to keep this company independent and free from corporate and accounting dominance. Thanks for the post !

  8. I hope this car is out there and affordable by the time I have to turn in my MINI-E next year! thanks for the news Paul.

  9. Hey it's very good news for EV lovers like me, at lost Toyota stepping into the EV market with the back support of Telsa motors whom are already invested and tested their EV technology so i hope this time we get a very good and long life batteries and also may increase the mileage of single charge.

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  12. I appreciated Chelsea's remarks. However, remember the Cadillac Diesel? Early unreliability & GM gave minimal backup support. Since US has invested in GM, I only hope that their focus is on RELIABILITY. Years of reading Consumer Reports' designation (by its reader/owners) of mediocre or poor reliabilty of GM cars (Ford & Chrysler, too) means I'll wait a few years to see how the VOLT holds up, before thinking about purchasing one.

  13. Wonderful news. I going to get one from cardealerships

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