Toyota held its first media briefing and drive for the RAV4 EV, due to go on sale later this year in California. The converted RAV4 is the result of the partnership between Toyota and Tesla Motors announced in May 2010; Toyota has contracted for 2,600 units.
In remarks during the briefing, Bill Fay, Group Vice President & General Manager, Toyota Division, noted that the RAV4 EV is an important element of Toyota’s plan to meet the Phase 3 requirements of California’s ZEV mandate for the 2012-2014 timeframe. Fay says that the company is planning to sell the full complement of 2,600 RAV EVs in California, plus 30,000 Prius plug-in hybrids and to introduce iQ EV urban car sharing programs to achieve ZEV compliance.
Accordingly, the RAV4 EV is only being sold in California. Depending upon consumer response and demand, Toyota could consider contracting with Tesla for additional units, perhaps to be rolled out in cities such as Boston and New York, or in other California ZEV states.
Some people have called the RAV4 EV nothing more than a compliance car. Let’s get one thing straight. The ZEV mandate been around for more than 20 years. It’s a fact of life. Will the RAV4 EV help us meet our compliance requirements? Absolutely. Did we create a barebones EV just to earn credits for the mandate? Absolutely not. —Bill Fay
The RAV4 EV is priced at $49,800, which can drop to below $40,000 with federal and state incentives. Based on its research, Toyota has a clear customer in mind, Fay said. The target buyer is married, 45–60 years old, highly educated, and is an affluent and evangelistic early adopter. He or she owns a home, which is perhaps solar-powered. The target buyers have strong personal convictions on the environment, oil use, and cutting edge technology. “The pool of buyers,” noted Fay, “is small.”
In its sales pitch, Toyota plans to emphasize product attributes such as driving range, dynamic performance and telematics. The RAV4 EV will be offered with only one spec, no options, and a simple color palette.
We’re going to find out what the market for EVs is. Our approach is to bring a great product to a select market that’s very open to this kind of technology. We do very well in California. and I think this will give us a good idea of overall consumer acceptance of EVs.
Twenty-two months after the project announcement, Toyota and Tesla engineers revealed the RAV4 EV at Electric Vehicle Symposium 26 in May 2012. To manage such a compressed timetable, Toyota engineers devised the eFAST process (early field and suitability testing), a new protocol specifically put in place for the RAV4 EV to validate and confirm vehicle performance.
The RAV4 EV combines a Tesla-designed and produced battery and electric powertrain with Toyota’s most popular SUV model. The current RAV4 EV uses Tesla Model S powertrain components; earlier Phase 0 builds used components from the Roadster.
The Tesla-supplied motor is an AC induction motor, which is a departure from Toyota’s practice of using synchronous permanent-magnet motors in their hybrid vehicles. A fixed-gear open-differential transaxle has a gear ratio of 9.73. The RAV 4 offers two drive modes: Normal and Sport.
Peak power output of the motor is 154 hp (115 kW), with peak torque in normal mode of 218 lb-ft (296 N·m), and peak torque in sport mode of 273 lb-ft (370 N·m). Maximum vehicle speed in Normal mode is 85 mph (137 km/h); maximum in Sport mode, which also has a more aggressive accelerator pedal feel, is 100 mph (161 km/h).
The battery pack is a 386V Li-ion pack comprising about 4,500 cells and rated at 41.8 kWh of useable energy at full charge. Power output is 129 kW max. The RAV4 EV features a 10 kW onboard charger (SAE J1772 240V, 40A input).
The RAV4 EV has two charge modes: Standard and Extended. In standard mode, the high voltage battery charges only up to 35 kWh and the vehicle is expected to achieve an EPA-estimated driving range rating of 92 miles. Extended Mode allows the battery to charge to its full usable capacity of 41.8 kWh, providing an anticipated EPA-estimated driving range of 113 miles. Standard mode is designed to optimize battery life over range; however, the 8-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty cover the packs regardless of the mix of charge modes over the packs’s life.
Toyota engineers devised a number of strategies to help optimize the available EV range on the Toyota RAV4 EV. The climate control system has three modes which allow the driver to select his or her preferred level of comfort and EV driving range. In NORMAL mode, the climate control system operates in the same manner as a conventional vehicle and provides the maximum comfort level, but also draws the most power, which in turn reduces the EV range.
ECO LO mode is recommended to achieve a balance of cabin comfort and improved range through reduced power consumption of the blower, compressor and/or electric heater. In cold weather, ECO LO also automatically activates and controls the seat heaters to optimal levels based on the cabin thermal conditions.
ECO HI further reduces blower, compressor and heater levels and also automatically activates the seat heaters if necessary. The use of ECO LO can reduce the climate control system power consumption up to 18% compared with NORMAL while ECO HI offers up to 40% power reduction compared to NORMAL. Thus use of either ECO LO or ECO HI mode extends the vehicle’s EV driving range.
Remote Climate Control allows drivers to pre-cool or pre-heat the vehicle prior to driving while the vehicle is plugged-in, which conserves battery charge and EV range. The Remote Climate Control system can be set by a timer on the navigation display. It can also be activated using a smart phone.
The Toyota/Tesla designed cooperative regenerative braking system works to minimize the vehicle’s kinetic energy loss during stopping. The system recovers the energy and converts it to electrical energy, which recharges the battery and extends driving range. The vehicle slows down while energy is captured. The addition of cooperative regenerative braking increases driving range by up to 20%.
The Toyota RAV4 EV also offers a low coefficient of drag and low center of gravity. At 0.30 Cd, RAV4 EV achieves the lowest coefficient of drag of any SUV in the world. Compared with the gasoline-powered RAV4, at 0.35 Cd, Toyota re-styled the front bumper, upper and lower grill, side mirrors, rear spoiler, and under body design to optimize air flow around the vehicle. The RAV4 EV’s battery pack is mounted low and to the center of the vehicle, contributing to a more sedan-like ride.