Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) debuted the 2012 RAV4 EV on Monday in Los Angeles at the 26th annual Electric Vehicle Symposium. The new electric RAV4 will have a range of approximately 100 miles with a charging time of roughly six hours, but the $49,800 MSRP price tag could scare off some potential buyers.
Toyota is hoping buyers will be electrified by the fact that the RAV4 EV is the only all-electric SUV on the market and that Elon Musk's brainchild Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) helped with its development, but the company does not seem to expect RAV4 EV sales to move at lightning speed, or even at a tortoise's pace, as it is only planning on selling 2,600 over the next three years.
In contrast, Toyota sold 15,196 conventional RAV4s in the month of April alone. The standard RAV4 only costs $22,650 MSRP, less than half the cost of the RAV4 EV. What's more, the RAV4 EV will initially only be available in four metro areas in California when it goes on sale this summer: Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles/Orange County and San Diego.
The high price tag compared to the standard RAV4, which gets 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and low availability of the new RAV4 EV could contribute to Toyota's very modest sales goal for the car.
We believe that the RAV4 EV will attract sophisticated early technology adopters, much like the first-generation Prius. It's designed for consumers who prioritize the environment and appreciate performance, said Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Sales USA group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division. We look forward to seeing how the market responds.
Its lackluster sales goals aside, the engineering that went into creating the RAV4 EV was successful. Tesla, better known for the Tesla Roadster and the forthcoming Model X cross-over SUV, developed the battery and powertrain for the RAV4 EV, which was released just 22 months after it went into development. A typical design cycle for a new vehicle is five years. The Tesla touch is apparent in the vehicle's architecture, and the RAV4 retained its cargo space instead of losing it to batteries because the battery pack was mounted low and at the center of the vehicle.
The RAV4 EV has a maximum speed of 100 mph and can do 0-60 in seven seconds. The drivetrain has a maximum output of 154 horsepower.
The new RAV4 EV is also exceptionally aerodynamic with a coefficient of drag of just 0.30 Cd, the lowest of any SUV in the world, according to Toyota. While the RAV4 EV is obviously very sleek, it also has developed a bit of the Prius lordosis and loses the rugged styling of the traditional, gasoline-powered RAV4.
The interior of the new RAV4 EV has all the expected standards: touchscreen for navigation, audio, EV settings, etc., Bluetooth audio and USB connectivity. Toyota also says the interior will feature a unique 'Neutron' fabric, woven with a subtle sheen and blue accent, but it doesn't say whether the Neutron fabric would render driver and passengers as protons or electrons.
Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) shares rose six cents to $78.69 Monday. Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) shares rose 64 cents or 2.01 percent to $32.47.