• On sale later this summer starting at $49,800
  • From concept to reality in 22 months
  • Features Tesla drivetrain

After a nine-year absence, the storied Toyota RAV4 EV is about to hit dealer showrooms again as a completely updated model with 100 miles of all-electric range and performance comparable to a V6. Notably different this time around is the incredible speed with which this generation of the RAV4 EV was turned from concept into production model - 22 months - made possible by the collaboration between start up electric car maker Tesla and Toyota.

For a company that normally counts new car development on the scale of several years, 22 months was a goal that Toyota itself would have found impossible using its traditional methods of vehicle development. But with Tesla's start up culture and ready-made electric drivetrain and batteries, both companies were able to overcome the disparity in corporate cultures and deliver a finished product in record time.

The RAV4 EV - which we first drove a prototype of 12 months ago - features a large enough battery pack to deliver about 100 miles of driving range between full charges. Although it doesn't feature any kind of ultra-fast DC Fast Charging technology, it can charge from empty to full using a specially equipped 240-volt home charging station in about 5-6 hours.

Engineers from both companies had to be creative about where to store the 41.8 kilowatt-hours worth of batteries and left the small crossover with the same 73 cubic foot cargo capacity as the gas powered V6 version. Much of the gas-powered drivetrain has been removed from the vehicle, but the batteries added about 500 lbs of overall weight. Even so, Toyota says the vehicle maintains the same level of driving dynamics and performance that an equivalently equipped V6 offers.

With many aerodynamic enhancements such as modified front fascia, bumpers, mirrors, underbody and spoiler, the RAV4 EV achieves an incredibly slippery 0.30 coefficient of drag - the lowest of any SUV on the market right now. That slipperiness combined with its electric drivetrain offers a virtually silent "zen-like" driving environment that could be especially nice for daily commuters.

Offered only in front-wheel drive configuration, the RAV4 EV will have a starting price of $49,800 and comes fully loaded with back and bottom cushion front seat heaters, as well as a state-of-the-art touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, Bluetooth, voice control, and Toyota's Entune system. Engineers have also built into the car an advanced battery charge gauge and special EV-only features such as eco-driving encouragement and remote charging control through a smartphone.

The car will only be on sale in four major California consumer markets including Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay region, Los Angeles/Orange County, and San Diego. Toyota says they will only build 2,600 of the vehicles over the next three years.

What it means to you: If you live in California, can afford the entrance price, and are lucky enough to get in line before the allotment of 2,600 vehicles runs out, the RAV4 EV offers the functionality of a small SUV with the benefits of an all-electric drivetrain.

author photo

Nick Chambers is a "next generation" car enthusiast, recognized for his green automotive coverage in Gas 2.0, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com. In addition, he's been syndicated in Matter Network, AP and Reuters.

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