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Toyota unveils RAV4 EV demonstration vehicle; targeting fully-engineered version in 2012 for market

The RAV4 EV demonstrator. Click to enlarge.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, unveiled the second-generation Toyota RAV4 EV demonstrator vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Toyota will build 35 of these Phase Zero vehicles—essentially converted RAV4s—for a demonstration and evaluation program through 2011. Tesla Motors is supplying the battery and other related components. TMS aims to have a fully re-engineered RAV4 EV (Phase One vehicle) on the market in 2012, said Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer, TMS.

Lentz said that the Phase One demonstrator is consistently achieving a 100-mile (161 km) range, based on actual road driving patterns under a wide range of climates and conditions. The final driving range of the 2012 Phase One vehicle will depend on many factors still being considered, not the least of which is battery size and design, as it relates to useable power.

When we decided to work together on the RAV4 EV, President Akio Toyoda wanted to adopt a new development model that incorporated Tesla’s streamlined, quick-action approach. The result was a hybrid—a new decision and approval process and a development style that our engineers refer to as “fast and flexible”. Led by our Toyota Technical Center in Michigan, it is a model that has helped reduce development time… without compromising product quality.

They have accomplished this by approaching this project as they would a mid-cycle “major-minor” product change. To be more specific, midway through a generation, we begin with a fully engineered current-generation RAV4 to which we are adding a major powertrain option, along with minor feature and cosmetic changes.

While Phase Zero vehicles are basically converted RAV4s, the Phase ONE vehicles we plan to bring to market in 2012 will be thoroughly re-engineered, Toyota RAV4 EVs.

—Jim Lentz

RAV4 EV mule undercarriage. Click to enlarge.

A large part of the development team’s focus on the customer experience targeted driveability. In this case, the end goal is a vehicle with driveability characteristics as close to the conventional RAV4 as possible. For example, the demonstration vehicle weighs approximately 220 pounds (100 kg) more than the current RAV4 V6 yet it will accelerate from zero to sixty nearly as quickly.

This added weight factor required significant retuning of major components and a prioritized focus on weight distribution. Not only were suspension and steering modified significantly, major components needed to be relocated to better balance the increased mass of the battery pack.

The demonstration vehicle Toyota is currently testing is powered by a lithium metal oxide battery with useable output rated in the mid-30 kWh range. However, many decisions regarding both the product, as well as the business model, have not been finalized. Battery size and final output ratings, as well as pricing and volume projections of the vehicle Toyota plans to bring to market in 2012, have not been decided.

As for a final assembly location, Toyota is considering many options and combinations. The basic vehicle will continue to be built at its Canadian production facility in Woodstock, Ontario. Tesla will build the battery and related parts and components at its new facility in Palo Alto, Calif. The method and installation location of the Tesla components into the vehicle is being discussed.

In the six years of its run, Toyota was able to lease or sell, only 1,484 RAV4-EVs. Enthusiasts loved it. Mainstream buyers…not so much...Back then…price and convenience proved to be critical success factors…and they remain so today. But much has changed in the last few years. Most importantly, the growing level of awareness that sustainable mobility will come at a cost that must be shared by the automakers, government and the consumer.

Toyota’s approach to sustainable mobility focuses on the world’s future reliance on mobility systems tailored to specific regions or markets, rather than individual models or technologies. It acknowledges that no one technology will be the winner and that a mobility system in Los Angeles will probably look very different from one in Dallas or New York or London or Shanghai.

Toyota’s comprehensive technology strategy is a portfolio approach that includes a long-term commitment to hydrogen fuel cells, plug-in hybrids and battery-electrics, all driven by the further proliferation of conventional gas-electric hybrids, like Prius as its core technology.

—Jim Lentz





It will be informative to see the response if this comes to market. It would be the first small SUV EV in production.

First you have to establish the mission for an EV. Is it a commuter car, an urban car, a suburban car or what? If it is a suburban soccer mom car, then they are on the right track.


I think a great many people's needs REALLY ARE filled by a suburban soccer mom car.
In that regard I think they are on the right track.

We can only hope that many will be happy with a high MPG, but non-macho suburban soccer mom car.

But, if so, whither the 4 cyl minivan?

If/when a car with the Toyota Hybrid System is "affordable" and sells for a profit we will really be on our way.


I think Chrysler could make it with a hybrid mini van. They could be the first and have a name in that category. But with all the financial and Fiat activity, maybe that is not something in the works.

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Those that consider the LEAF too small for their needs or taste will now still be able to choose an ‘earth friendly vehicle´.

Note the secrecy about battery chemistry. They will use a “lithium metal oxide battery” which can be almost any type of lithium battery. Tesla has said elsewhere they will go with the 18650 format but that they will use different cells than the typical consumer 18650 cells. The typical 18650 consumer cell is designed to last 500 cycles to 80% capacity and this will not be good enough for the RAV4 EV that has a range of 100 miles meaning its battery will only last 50000 miles to 80% capacity. The LEAF’s battery can do about 1500 cycles to 80% capacity which is good for 150000 miles. Tesla will have to use a kind of 18650 cells that can do something similar.

Also don’t expect an inexpensive vehicle. With a 38kWh battery it will cost about twice as much as the gasoline RAV4 so expect about 50.000 USD before incentives. I still think it will sell well at that price especially if they can warrant the battery for 100.000 miles like they do for the LEAF and the Volt.


Until "Who Killed the Electric Car", I had not known about GM crushing the EV1 and the EV scale NiMH patents used by Japanese auto firms.

It seems like the 1997 EV RAV4 was just a 'quick and dirty' engineering response to the GM 1996 EV1, right down to the milk crate/plastic bottles-like Panasonic EV-95 NiMH batteries.

Yet even a dozen years ago the EV RAV4 beat GM in every way, including 100 mile range and "EVs can therefore match or exceed the lifecycle miles of comparable internal combustion engine vehicles." -

The only manufactured 1990s highway capable EVs I've seen are some RAV4 EVs at the Better Place offices in Palo Alto.

The EV RAV4 is an important achivement and, after a dozen years, the new EVs should have a range closer to the Tesla's range.

Some say that if GM had spent it's 'EV1 $billion' on production instead of CARB/FED lawsuites, this mostly urban world would be ten years farther down the road with EVs being over 10% of new car sales.

As with their destroying mass transit convictions and consistent near bottom CAFE ratings, it's almost like GM and others are mainly in the business of selling oil.


Great news for the EV world and electrification. Two powerhouse manufacturers combining to rehab the green car enthusiasts favorite vehicle RAV4. But, there is an issue. One that Toyota has not had to face until now. This thing is WAY TOO EXPENSIVE for the little people. And, of course, we assume only "little people" need cars. (/sarc)

"With a 38kWh battery it will cost about twice as much as the gasoline RAV4 so expect about 50.000 USD before incentives."

Henrick's estimate is probably close considering materials costs these days. But maybe we should just accept that the first EV technology is not going to be cheap. Accept it. And be grateful there are people who can afford these vehicles and their purchases will help drive down the subsequent costs. Then move on.

This looks like a valuable entry into the growing EV market.


"response to the GM 1996 EV1"

It was a response to the ZEV laws, just like most other car makers were responding. The difference was GM made the EV1 and brought court action in parallel.

IMO we could have had PHEVs the last 10 years if NiMH restrictions were not imposed. We might have had a million PHEVs on the road by now, but that still would have not reduced imported oil much.


Yes, the "lithium-metal-oxide" naming of the battery is interesting.

It may cover a new kind of chemistry Toyota is perfecting.

If they could create a li-chemistry with average li-ion energy density, acceptable power density and 5-10 000 cycle life, they would make EVs much more affordable because only the miles/life-of-battery is what really counts.

If you can buy an all-weather 100 mile battery which can go for 10K cycles, then you have 1M miles which would be much more than the expected lifetime of the car itself.

The fear of needing a battery replacement after xK miles would be gone and EV buyers would line up nicely at the showrooms.

Of course EVs would be still expensive but simply by this they would become much more appealing.

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Unfortunately there seems to be a tradeoff between battery cycle life and energy density.

Best Panasonic 18650 cells
250Wh/kg and 500 cycles to 80% capacity.

Nissan Leaf cells
140Wh/kg and 1500 cycles to 80% capacity.

A123’s 18650 cells
105Wh/kg and 3000 cycles or so to 80% capacity.

Toshiba or altairnano Li titanium cells
80Wh/kg and 12000 cycles or so to 80% capacity.

I expect Tesla and Panasonic to make an 18650 automotive grade cell and battery pack for the Rav4 that can do 1000+ cycles to about 80% capacity and still be 180 to 200 Wh/kg.


After 4-5 years my car gets 80 mile range and used to get 100 mile range. Since I drive 70 mph on freeways my 70 mile range is now 56 mile range. Considering what the car cost, even energy savings does not make me feel much better.


SJC, ten years of mass production EV improvements, battery advances, and charging infrastructure expansion would make a massive difference.

Just the fact that even used EV car owners could get to work or school or go about life, no matter how long the next oil embargo or how many times OPEC doubles oil prices would stabilize much of the greed and reduce future supply shortage impacts.


We are about to see how many EVs sell each year. After more than ten years there are just over 1 million HEVs out of 200 million cars. I don't believe that there will be 1 million EVs on the road in 10 years.

With 2 million HEVs getting 40% better mileage and 1 million EVs using no oil, the reduction in oil consumption will not even be measurable compared with the 10% more oil we will use in 10 year.

100 million FFVs running cellulose E85/M85 with the 15% gasoline synthesized by a methanol to gasoline process will reduce oil consumption by more than 20% at a cost of $200 per car versus $10,000 more per car for an EV with less range.


In mass production, I believe a battery and motor will be much less expensive than ICE with it's hundred times as many parts, maintenance headaches, fuel, and pollution costs.

Double present ICE vehicle sticker prices for a more realistic true cost.


SJC..... over 2,000,000 Prius have been built and about 12+ other manufacturers are trying to catch up. Model year 2011 may the first model year with over 1,000,000 electrified vehicles sale. We can expect that it will be doubled every two years or so for the next 10 years. By 2021, total electrified vehicles yearly sales may be between 16 and 32 millions. What percentage will be HEVs, PHEVs or BEVs...nobody really knows but smaller vehicles will attract BEVs and heavier vehicles will go for PHEVs. HEVs could start their phasing out by 2020.

The new 10+ battery factories will be very busy.


SJC: things are moving twice as fast as you think, sir.

"Toyota City, Japan, October 7, 2010—Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announces that worldwide cumulative sales of the Toyota "Prius"—the world's first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle—have passed the 2-million mark, with approximately 2,012,000 units sold as of the end of September.
Currently, Prius sales are robust in more than 70 countries and regions, particularly in Japan and North America."

All of which indicates a healthy appetite for a new technology that is about to blow the gasoline business out of the (literal) water.

Investors, take note.


I am talking about on U.S. highways not worldwide cumulative sales.


Nicely cleaned up.


Posting this site on the DBM battery.


@ SJC,

What kind of electric vehicle are you driving?


I do not drive an electric vehicle, but I would like to drive a true FFV.


Why would one assume that if GM had spent billions producing the EV1 "brick" for the last 10 years that the EV in general would be closer to being viable?

Toyota has made the Prius for 10 years and it has slipped below the Impala and Malibu in US sales.

GM did not "not make an EV1" after 2003; - the whole world did “not make an EV1 after 2003”.

You might think mass production would have made an EV (Prius, Volt, Leaf, eRav4 or Rav4 EV) competitive - but every reputable auto maker in the world disagreed.

Who to believe.


Toyota went the route of making over 2,000,000 Prius' over the last 10 years and are now upstaged by the Leaf and Volt (and Toyota may be saying, welcome to it).

If model year 2011 sees EV sales of 1,000,000 - Geeat.
Sales better more than double every two years or so for the next 10 years; - oil imports and oil prices are eating our lunch.

FFV, EVs, Diesels - we need to get moving.


We might see 1 million EVs sold in 2020, but that depends on a LOT of factors. The Prius did not require charge stations nor even plugging in. In fact, Toyota went to great lengths to let the buying public know that the Prius was NOT plugged in.

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