Somebody Please Explain Why the RAV4 EV Isn’t a Big Hit

By · August 30, 2013

Toyota RAV4 EV

Photo: Brad Berman.

As PluginCars.com previously reported, Toyota is offering dramatic discounts on the RAV4 EV all-electric crossover SUV. Sales of the vehicle have been meager, so the implied message is that consumers aren’t interested in the RAV4 EV. A few weeks ago, I drove the car again—through a one-week loan from Toyota—and I was just as blown away as my two previous times behind the wheel. (See my drive review, from exactly a year ago, in The New York Times.) Frankly, I don’t understand why the RAV4 EV isn’t the most sought-after EV on the market.

Do consumers not understand that the RAV4 EV has Tesla underpinnings—and is therefore, in essence, the least expensive way to own a new Tesla? When I put the RAV4 EV into Sport mode, and stomped on the accelerator, it provided nearly all the madcap thrill of being in a Roadster or Model S. The RAV4 EV is seriously (and in my hands, perhaps even dangerously) fast.

An Affordable Tesla

Now combine that driving fun with a 41.8 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which grants 120 miles or more of driving range. The EV community does a lot surveys (and hand-wringing) about the bottom-line amount of driving range needed to make electric cars go mainstream. A 42-kWh pack comes quite close to that bogey. While observers and investors go ga-ga over Tesla, and anticipate the arrival of the Model X SUV and a future more affordable electric model, the RAV4 EV is on the market now. Why isn't the electric RAV the electric car we've been waiting for? (Okay, it would be nice to add all-wheel drive to the mix.)

Along the same lines, some shoppers fretted over Tesla canceling the 40-kWh version of the Model S—but here’s a 42-kWh Tesla-powered vehicle, with all the space and high-riding practicality of a small SUV, and it’s escaping notice. Okay, the styling is straight-up Toyota (see: yawn) but it’s moderately attractive. Actually, I preferred piloting a Toyota-wrapped Tesla below the radar of fellow drivers—over my time in the Model S, which always felt a bit too showy for my taste.

Yes, there have been warnings about the RAV4 EV deals not being as good as advertised at some dealerships. And some technical problems have been reported (even if I didn’t experience any of those in my week with the car.)

And general-market shoppers might feel like a Toyota SUV—even with the discounts and incentives that bring the vehicle down to mid-$30,000s and leases to $299 a month (granted, with a sizable downpayment)—is not worth the electric car premium. Still, I don’t get why more shoppers explicitly interested in an EV don’t see the RAV4 EV as the best electric car on the market—based on its big-battery range, proven Toyota-designed comfort and cargo features, and a kick-ass Tesla powertrain.

Guzzling Kool-Aid Again?

If I wasn’t afraid of over-hyping the RAV4 EV, I might nominate it as—dare I say—the best electric car of all time. It has a great legacy, with the first generation model escaping the claws of destruction that crushed the EV1. Those Gen1 models are still providing great service to many of its owners. Of course, Model S owners are going to think I’m nuts. But when you look at range/power/functionality on a per-dollar basis, I might argue that the RAV4 embodies more of what the EV movement needs in an accessible but robust model—over the much more costly Model S. (Look at the passenger and cargo space you get compared to the upcoming BMW i3 subcompact, which has garnered so much more enthusiasm and media attention than the RAV4 EV ever received.)

Maybe the problem is that Toyota itself is not a believer in electric cars, so it undermines the achievement of the RAV4 EV. Fair enough. Still, I’d like to know from readers where I’ve gone off the rails in my assessment.

Regardless, I’ll stop my sales pitch right now, because—for purely selfish purposes—I’m not sure I want too many shoppers to see the RAV4 EV as a sleeper hit. The three-year lease on my Nissan LEAF is up in spring 2014, and I want those great deals to still be available.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

Why isn't the RAV4 EV an enormous hit? A few ideas, some speculative:

- It's a compliance special. This is a problem I think reviewers in California consistently underestimate. Ideological EVers (and that's a much bigger group than for other vehicle types) resist buying compliance cars because such purchases do not support development of vehicles intended for general sale. Practical buyers without roots sunk deep into California soil resist buying a car they can't have serviced if they move out of state. So you start off marketing to a niche of a niche.

- Big battery, yes. Quick charger, no.

- . . . and it's not THAT big a battery, given the bulk of the vehicle. Tesla dropped this configuration because there was such strong demand for bigger batteries. While 120 mile range is an improvement over a LEAF, the difference isn't big enough to be a game changer for most potential buyers - again, a niche of a niche.

- Known technical bugs likely make the RAV4 EV the least reliable EV currently for sale. Let me be clear that EV reliability is a pretty high bar these days (especially with the Karma now out of the mix), so this isn't the same as saying it's an electrical fire waiting to happen. I'd just ask what's LESS reliable?

- It looks like a cheap little SUV. This is not a look that aligns well with the EV market of somewhat prosperous tree-huggers and techno-geeks.

- Toyota dealers are at best indifferent to them. Manufacturers are always at the mercy of the interests and inclinations of the guys on the sales floor and their managers. It's one of the big reasons that Tesla doesn't want dealers, who would almost certainly come from the ranks of existing dealer networks that make their money distracting people from the disadvantages of ICEVs.

· · 1 year ago

I agree it's a heck of an EV for the price Brad, and there really isn't anything else like it in the market. But...

It's painfully clear Toyota isn't really behind it and that turns a lot of people off. Tony Williams has documented the many issues he's had, but even with issues I think people would accept it if Toyota acted like they cared and were anxious to resolve them, which they haven't.

Plus, as good as it looks on paper there are those (and I've talked to them) that don't want to support Toyota in the RAV4 EV endeavor because they know it's just a CARB compliance car and they would rather give their EV dollars to a company that is serious about their EV plans and is really trying to build an EV program and sell plug-in cars in volume.

They are only available in California and aren't available at many dealerships there either. And of all the dealerships that they are available at, only a few are actively trying to move them (Tony can certainly direct any interested party to the "good" dealers). I don't live in California so I don't know if they are advertising it at all, are they? Even Fiat made some interesting commercials for the 500e compliance car to generate some interest, I've never seen anything for the RAV4 EV.

Yes, problems aside it really is a great EV and offers utility that nothing else does, but evidently most of the EV community is having trouble looking past how anti-EV Toyota continues to be and doesn't want to support their effort to game CARB. The lack of advertising and the technical problems it's had is just the icing on the cake.

· · 1 year ago

Because it is basically unobtainium. And, it is too expensive.

If they made the Scion iQ EV with 80-100 mile range and sold it for $21-24K, they would have a winner! And the RAV4 EV needs to be $35-38K, I think.

Neil

· · 1 year ago

To put it simply: range less than 200 miles, price more than 35K, no supercharger.

· · 1 year ago

Agree with Tom.

Because of the Tesla drivetrain one could potentially make arrangements with a Tesla Service Center and have the RAV4 EV repaired there. With those centers now available nationwide the RAV4 EV can be bought in CA and driven elsewhere. However the openly-expressed by Toyota disdain for plugins not only hurts the RAV4 EV sales, it also hurts the Plug-in Prius sales as well.

It is a shame.

There is hope, however. Honda has also been rather unsupportive for EVs and initially the leases of the Fit EV were sluggish. However with the right incentives the Fit EV is basically sold out.

This is even though the car is only available through a closed-end lease and has an appointment with the crusher afterwards. As someone who supports EVs this is worse than driving a Hummer. It is completely unacceptable and despite all the great features of the Fit EV I would not drive one.

· · 1 year ago

The Ev industry needs to bring out pure 200 miles range suv and price right around 30k - 40k. The Rav4 its an suv but you can't take it on a long trip, you have to plan your trip carefully. People with family likes to take there suv in the wilderness lakes campground etc.

· · 1 year ago

@vdiv wrote: >>>>>>>Because of the Tesla drivetrain one could potentially make arrangements with a Tesla Service Center and have the RAV4 EV repaired there. With those centers now available nationwide the RAV4 EV can be bought in CA and driven elsewhere.<<<<<<<<<

A pleasant fantasy, but no. Most of the car is NOT a Tesla, so this would only be feasible if Toyota were to make arrangements with Tesla to support Toyota dealers in servicing the car outside of California. Given the attitude they've demonstrated toward EVs in general, I can't think of any reason they would do this.

· · 1 year ago

Simply answer: level of commitment and trust that Toyota is in BEVs for long haul.

No BEV concepts, little public showcasing of pure-EV technology development. Is the RAV4 EV based on last-years design and not even offered for sale on Toyota's home turf in Japan? You'd think a 200 mile range BEV would be a technology showpiece.

To be taken seriously as BEV manufacturer there needs to be demonstrated progress towards developing a 120-150 mile BEV with <30 minute charging capability. A large part of creating a manufactures' competitive advantage is developing in-house technologies. The RAV4 EV power-train was developed jointly with Tesla, but little word on future technology partnerships, nor joint ventures.

Face it, while RAV4 EV is a reasonably good BEV for today, however it is lacking a path to the future via a commitment from Toyota. Great leadership is needed in addition to great engineering and design.

· · 1 year ago

Tell them to offer it in 50 states and support it at dealership and give the lease price they give California, it will sell

· · 1 year ago

Read my lips -- COMPLIANCE CAR, TOYOTA HAS SAID THEY HATE BEING IN THE EV MARKET THEY DON'T WANT TO BE!!!! THEY SUED CARB A DECADE AGO. DESPITE THEM TOUTING THE ANCIENT PRIUS, THEY HATE EV'S THEY'VE SAID THIS MANY TIMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

· · 1 year ago

Lots of good points already. First, PLEASE don't make this your EV car of the century! As to price, it already sells (after credits / rebates / "subjugation" cash, et al) for $30k - $35k and leases for $415 - $445 (the latter is unlimited miles) and zero down payment.

Price isn't the singular problem, obviously. Those are smoking good deals for any car that doesn't need to buy gas and no cost for maintenance (Toyota Care for two years).

Problem number ONE... The Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF. Back in the "before time", 1996-2003, Toyota could pump out a compliance car and folks gobbled them up. There just wasn't anything better (I'm sure an EV-1 driver will pipe up now, but nobody has driven an EV-1 in over a decade). I'm confident that Toyota thought they'd slap this together with Tesla in 22 months with very little impact to their operation besides writing a really big check to Tesla. We would all line up with our tongues hanging out and CARB would be satisfied until Toyota's next trick for CARB-ZEV, the hydrogen car for 2015-2017.

It didn't work out that way. A few months after Toyota decided that they better make a real plan for CARB-ZEV compliance of 0.79% zero emission credits for model years 2012-2014, Nissan released the already complete and very competent LEAF. They have sold 75,000 around the world. 18 months later, Tesla released the Model S, and is building 400 - 600 per week for worldwide sales, also, with 10k - 15k sold. Here's what Toyota sold:

On sale: September 24, 2012
Month ---- Sales ---Cumulative Sales
Sep 2012 - 61 ........... 61
Oct 2012 - 47 ........... 108
Nov 2012 - 32 ........... 140
Dec 2012 - 52 ........... 192
Jan 2013 - 25 ............ 217
Feb 2013 - 52 ............ 269
Mar 2013 - 133 .......... 402
Apr 2013 - 70 ............ 472
May 2013 - 84 ............ 556
Jun 2013 - 44 ............ 600
July 2013 - 109 ......... 709

Yep, Tesla can sell that in a bit over a week with a car that cost two to three times as much. Nissan, too, albeit with a far, far cheaper car. Both cars, by the way, come with a way to quick charge the car. That is HUGE for utility of the EV for mass markets (yes, I know the old EV guard will perk up and tell me that we don't need or want charging infrastructure... good luck with that). So, problem number TWO is no quick charge capability, even though Tesla is a founding CHAdeMO member.

Before somebody tells me that Tesla does use CHAdeMO, and therefore wouldn't put it in the car, consider that they also don't use a J1772-2009 plug, yet Rav4 EV has that (the prototype Rav4's had Tesla Roadster plugs). Also, since Toyota molded a custom nose piece for the Rav4 EV, they could have VERY easily incorporated a CHAdeMO port in the nose, where it belongs. Even if it was optional. They didn't.

You can bet that Toyota was crossing their fingers that they would get this CARB-ZEV mandate watered down by now. Believe me, their trade organizations have and are still trying! Then, it could be 2003 all over again. Here's the official end to the original Rav4 EV, 1996-2003:

"Toyota believes that the execution of the retail program launch was very successful. A comprehensive marketing program, strong dealer support,and an enticing pricing level were keys to this success. However, sales levels were very low. As a result, no business case could be made for continuing sales of the RAV4 EV at these volumes. We believe that advances in hybrid technology and other advanced systems have a much greater potential for the environment and Toyota."

Note the "sales very low" part. You can't argue that sales are HIGH and cancel the program, or petition CARB and EPA that nobody wants electric vehicles because sales are HIGH !!!! The success of Nissan and Tesla really screwed up a repeat of 2000-2003 for Toyota. So, in addition to only providing the car for strictly CARB-ZEV compliance so that they can sell hundreds of thousands of profitable oil burning cars, they surely don't want it to be TOO successful. As you recall last time they cancelled the Rav4 EV, people were still clamoring for more Rav4 EV, and Toyota did slap together their spare parts into the very last ones built.

That won't happen this time. So, problem number THREE is no support from Toyota, in either advertising or otherwise. Toyota very recently DENIED dealership reimbursement to service the Rav4 EV at a non-certified dealer. So, that dealer refused to continue to service the car. No, there's not much to; rotate tires, check fluids, etc. If it needs a software update, that's another issue. They almost go out of their way not to support out of state buyers, to the point that it may come to a class action law suite to get basic warranty coverage.

Problem FOUR, the word is getting out; these cars are maintenance PIGS compared to other Toyota cars. My personal car has had about $40,000 in repairs since new in November 2012. Cars have quit leaving the dealers lot. They have shut down in the middle of freeways with a mother and her kids. They have failed to start at all (happened to me). Remember, there are less than 1000 of these in the whole world.

Problem FIVE, the Tesla Model X. If I want a real SUV all electric car, with tow capability, all wheel drive, beau coup power, and quick charge capability nationwide (not to mention worldwide sales support), I'll pay for and wait for that.

Problem FIVE, Toyota is so open and vocal how bad battery EVs are. The market they are selling to really doesn't want to hear that. Obviously, a different story comes from Tesla and Nissan.

Problem SIX, $25k car interior. Yes, it has a navigation unit with so many user interface issues that it's obvious that it was rushed and not fully vetted.

Problem SEVEN, built on obsolete older platform. Yes, folks aren't crazy about spending big bucks on yesterday's styling.

Problem EIGHT, only sold in California, and only at select dealers, the overwhelming majority of which could care less about selling it.

I could probably go on, but I've got things to do today!!!

Tony

· · 1 year ago

alteast this time around ppl can actually OWN electric cars in the end when "who killed the electric car act 2 comes out" well except for honda.

· · 1 year ago

its only available in CA. So ppl like me from Maryland, who wants this car, can't get it.

I thought about buying only a couple of used RAV4EV available online but then the fear of service problem restricted me from doing that.

· · 1 year ago

Toyota obviously can't endorse out-of-state sales when they are complying with CALIFORNIA rules. So, it appears they are moving to a hostile approach for out-of-state sales, service and warranty.

One owner recently had his shipped to Hawaii, where it promptly failed. Toyota is making it clear that they won't support the car, but did offer "help" with diagnosis of the car (it won't start).

Lets be clear; this endeavor overall is costing Toyota many TENS OF MILLIONS of dollars. I guess we should be kissing their feet that they made it at all, instead of just buying the ZEV credits and paying the penalties.

· · 1 year ago

@Tony said:>>>>>>>>I guess we should be kissing their feet that they made it at all, instead of just buying the ZEV credits and paying the penalties.<<<<<<<

I realize this was said facetiously, but even so, it raises the question of why Toyota didn't do exactly that. As I believe you've pointed out elsewhere (forgive me if I'm mis-remembering or missed the point), buying their way out of compliance would probably have been cheaper for them. And from the perspective of EV enthusiasts, this Toyosla hack is approximately as useless.

The thing is, neither strategy positions Toyota well for the out years, and that's their real problem; they basically started humming loudly with their fingers stuck in their ears instead of getting to work on solving the engineering problems (and they're not alone in that). FC cars aren't going to get it done for the kinds of numbers that are coming down the pike, so if Toyota and their ilk can't change the rules as they'd expected, they're going to wind up buying gear (or whole cars, God forbid) from folk who took all this more seriously, and probably not at the best prices.

It's obviously too early to tell how all this will play out, as so much depends on voters and car buyers. But in California at least, EV-skepticism may turn out to be a very expensive vice to have indulged.

· · 1 year ago

Toyota not stupid they know how to take a car thats making no money and make big bucks out of it. PRIUS. They just need to get behind it.

· · 1 year ago

Already been said. its a compliance car that Toyota has plainly stated they would not manufacture a single unit beyond the bare minimum units required by CA.

That speaks VOLUMES for support, availability of service, etc...

Might want to buy one while its cheap. do not break the cellophane, put it on a shelf and sell it at an EV convention in 2030. might double your money

· · 1 year ago

"Frankly, I don’t understand why the RAV4 EV isn’t the most sought-after EV on the market."

Maybe because its, you know, not _on_ the market?**

**customers do exist outside California.

· · 1 year ago

It might also have something to do with the fact that if you call a Toyota dealer and ask for information about a Rav4 EV, they tell you there is no such vehicle. Which is weird, since I personally know someone who is driving one.

· · 1 year ago

As an owner, I'll pitch in a couple of thoughts.

It's a very expensive Toyota.

It's not cool looking or unique like the FJ40, it's just a run-of-the-mill Toyota RAV4, and last year's body style, at that.

It may fly like a Tesla, and it is is absurdly fast for an SUV, but it does not drive like one. It drives like a RAV4. It's like people who stick a V-8 in a Miata. It just doesn't belong there. It's no surprise that there's not one Tesla badge visible without crawling under the car or removing stuff.

If you think you might move eventually, you worry if it can be serviced, and the answer to that question is: only if you take Toyota to the mat.

Even though it's part Tesla, you don't feel like part of the Tesla moment. This might sound silly, but I met up with two Tesla driving friends, and I have none of the passion they do about their cars, because I own a car that Toyota doesn't really want to make.

All that said, I love our car and we'll probably drive it until the battery dies, but would I give it an unqualified recommendation? Probably not. Our next cars will be Teslas.

· · 1 year ago

Most people don't know it exists.

The MSRP is $50K. I know, there are deals to be had but many people don't know it.

At this point, it is apparent that it will be orphaned.

· · 1 year ago

Like jspearman, I'm an owner too. It is a unique vehicle that has no equal. Would I rather have a Model S or Model X, sure. Who wouldn't? However, after rebates, taxes, fees, tax credits, etc., I paid less than half what a minimally configured Model S 60 would be. That's huge.

We use the RAV for all our weekend family driving now. The only time the gas car gets used is when we need both cars at the same time like going to work. We can go everywhere we normally go in the Bay Area in the RAV. We only go to Tahoe or LA maybe twice a year. We'll just take the old ICE car for those trips. I used to think that a V60 or XC60 PHEV would be the perfect car for us, but who knows when or if they will ever sell one of those here. In the meantime, the RAV is serving us well and I don't miss the gas station at all.

· · 1 year ago

One word : Marketing.

· · 1 year ago

I just leased a Rav4 EV. I quite like it a lot, but as others have stated, it's still a Toyota. I really want a Tesla, but it's a little too expensive. I will probably let my lease run out and buy the next gen Tesla.

· · 1 year ago

Here's where I differ from many of the commenters: I don't have an ideological beef with Toyota or any automaker that decides not to fully back EVs. That's their choice, and the marketplace will decide. Can't we separate the car from its maker--and just judge the vehicle based on its own merits or shortcomings?

At the same time, I personally would like to see as many EVs on the road as possible. Tesla started at the luxury end of the market, but its end game is mainstream. I'm not so sure that electric cars can go mainstream, and be offered at mainstream prices, without, well, feeling and driving a lot more like a Toyota. Luxury features and huge batteries could pin EVs to the luxury market.

I know from candid conversations with Tesla executives that Elon Musk doesn't want to occupy a market share at the level of a BMW or even a Honda--but he envisions being a GM, Toyota or VW. Can that really happen without, some degree, the Toyota-ification of Tesla?

That's why I see the RAV4 EV, even with its shortcomings, as an actually real-product embodiment of where electric cars need to be: accessible platform, comfortable driving dynamics, decent (even if not exciting) design, a very powerful yet quiet drivetrain, etc. Right now, it's expensive because so few are being made. That would come down with any amount of scale.

By all means dudes, buy a Tesla if you can afford one. But a RAV4 EV, even if perceived as being overpriced for what it is, is half the price of most Teslas that go out the door.

And having spent a decent amount of time with the late Dave Hermance of Toyota in the early hybrid years, those guys didn't believe in hybrids during tand didn't advertise them in the first few years they were on sale. Rising sales, not kvetching advocates, convinced them to get behind hybrids.

· · 1 year ago

Brad, why would I or anyone else buy a car such as Tony Williams has that has had $40,000 of parts failures (including the Tesla Stuff), and has spent 1 month in the shop and 11 months out of it in 1 year's time?

I've stated before I have a friend with no particular electrical expertise, who has electrified an S-10 pickup 15 years ago, and the only things he's changed are the batteries at the end of their lifetime. The Motor, Controller, and charger are all the original 15 year old things.

Toyota should hire my friend from his banking job and have him be their chief designer of the next Rav4ev version 2. If they pay him a flat $5 million, Toyota will save around $5 million and they'll have a much more reliable vehicle.

· · 1 year ago

There won't be a repeat of 2003. Even if there was, companies like Nissan and Tesla would continue to work on building out their EV program with increasing success.

· · 1 year ago

@BradBerman: So let's break this down. You posed a question, a sort of automotive marketing riddle if one takes your story at face value, and when you get a pile of pretty clear answers to that riddle, you wave the submitters away as so many "kvetching advocates." If anyone's kvetching, pal, it's you.

There are a lot of reasons that the RAV4 EV isn't flying out the doors, and Toyota's very obvious lack of commitment to EVs is not only a major one, but it's QUITE relevant, contrary to your nonsensical "Can't we separate the car from its maker?" challenge. The maker is the one who advertises the car (or doesn't), stands behind the car (or doesn't), services the car (or doesn't). The car's apparent "pre-orphaned" status weighs heavily on perceptions, and for good reason. Perhaps you can afford to plunk down $40-50k for a car on a whim without worrying about how long it will last or how it will be maintained. Folks in real life care about those things. And if it's roomy enough and pleasant enough and quick enough, that's all just swell, but so are a lot of other cars that don't make buyers feel like they're casting dice.

Of course the folks in this forum would like to see as many EVs on the road as possible, just as you say. But throwing a check at Tesla to shoehorn their tech into a has-been CUV just to sell a statutory minimum number at a loss does not take us one step closer to the goal of mass market EVs. I don't think anyone's complaining that a RAV4 isn't a Model S. We're complaining that a RAV4 is being offered for $50k with so little value for the money, and that Toyota's invested so little in efficiently manufacturing this sled that they can't make unit profits even at that silly price. The punch line is that they're even missing their goal of selling the statutory minimum that drove the project to begin with, so now have to take even bigger losses to unload a vehicle they were all too successful in rendering unappealing.

Sincerely,
Yet Another Kvetching Advocate

· · 1 year ago

I have considered getting a RAV4 EV but am constantly off-put by the high price tag(lease cost coming down at least), and seemingly absent competent support for repairs. The dealers don't seem to know about it or understand how to service it. If something happens, they just call Tesla to help. Then at the end of the product cycle in 2015 or after 2600 sales, then what? Toyota won't come out with another EV, they seem to be going for fuel cells in 2015-2016.

Now if Tesla would step up and say that they would be willing to service these at their service centers, it would go a long way to easing my worries about the longevity of this car. Even if Tesla charged a fee for it, it would be a welcome announcement.

· · 1 year ago

I agree with previous comments about this being a compliance car and Toyota's lack of interest in pure bettery EVs. Perhaps Toyota will unveil a fuel cell car at this year's Tokyo Motor Show in November that is planned as a 2015 model and will cost between $50k and $100k. Maybe that's the direction they, and some other manufacturers, are heading.

· · 1 year ago

If potential buyers hang on until sometime in 2014, they can buy the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and get an SUV which is electric for running around, and petrol for longer journeys with no range limits.
For less money they will then have a car the company making it really believes in, and which will be generally available and fully backed for service, not a California compliance special.

· · 1 year ago

It's small, it's electric, but it's still an SUV, and as such carries all the symbolism of SUVs, none of it good. SUVs are icons of inefficiency, excess, self-importance and disdain for the environment, and are driven by many precisely for that reason. Historically, SUVs replaced the family station wagon primarily because SUVs were classified as trucks and therefore could evade the federal fuel-efficiency standards that applied to passenger vehicles, even though they are typically carrying only passengers probably 95% of the time. More practically, you have to ask, why drive an EV in the first place? For most people, it's because there is an environmental advantage, which depends on many factors but is really not that large, generally less than a factor of 2 in emissions compared to a gasoline full hybrid. So if you start moving up to larger EVs, that advantage dissipates pretty quickly.

· · 1 year ago

As I said it is very simple. It all comes down to OEM commitment.

If the OEM is building a "compliance" car - they just want to sell a minimum number and be done with it. So they won't spend the money & time to train their dealers and push them to sell the cars. They won't put any money on marketing. All that means very few people would know about the car, and since dealers are not pushing them either, nobody buys them.

I considered buying one - but without local Toyota support, I decided not to buy. Turned out to be a wise thing, considering all the reports of reliability.

BTW, I expect the sales to pickup now that we have a $299 lease.

· · 1 year ago

Didn't I read in one of Tony William's overviews on the RAV4 EV that there's a computer glitch that prevents it from charging on the last day of months with 31 days? We'll have to wait until 2016 (next leap year,) but I'll bet that February 29th will also be a no-charge day. No commercial EV should be so computer controlled on charging parameters that a glitch like this should be present and, if it is, there should be some easy way to override it.

· · 1 year ago

@Davemart wrote:>>>>>>>>If potential buyers hang on until sometime in 2014, they can buy the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV<<<<<<<<<<

Definitely. The O-PHEV looks very promising - if the numbers hold up (priced close to $40k, 2/3 the EV range of a Volt, >40mpg in hybrid mode), it's going to be a very tough competitor for other PHEVs and even some HEVs (yeah, I mean you, Highlander).

In contrast with the RAV4 EV, it sure looks like the real deal. Fingers crossed Mitsu gets it over here sooner rather than later.

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead - Yes, it's true - when you use the car's charging timer to have the car charged by a certain departure time (usually to facilitate off-peak charging), the car will not start charging on the 31st of the month. Instead it will show your next departure as being on the 1st. It is baffling why this bug has not been fixed in the couple charging related firmware updates. All you have to do is manually charge on the night of the 30th. You can either touch the Charge Immediately button the central screen or you use their smartphone app to start the charging just before you go to bed. My weekday use of the car doesn't require charging every day and my weekends are mostly billed off-peak so I'm not really inconvenienced by the bug. People who must charge every day to make it to work and back are understandably upset by this bug.

· · 1 year ago

I think the problems are pretty well covered by Tony William and others.

Here is fwe that I would add:

1. NOT competitive "leasing" price. Most other EVs have the $199/month or $249/month with unlimited miles in CA. Sure, the E-Rav4 is larger, but most people just want an EV for commute so it will cover their gas cost. E-Rav4 with 100 miles still doesn't replace their real SUV need for long range and bad weather driving. (no-AWD/4WD).

2. e-RAV4 has one of the LOWEST MPGe rating among all BEVs. So, it is one of the least efficient plugin cars out there. We are still in the early buying phase and people care about the efficiency rating (they shouldn't) since MPGe of 90 and 100 aren't really all that much in real life cost... But e-RAV4 has one of the lowest rating at 78/76/74 (City/Combined/Hwy) mpge. Most of plugins are at 95-120 MPGe range.

3. List price. Regardless how much discount there is, the MSRP is too high. Most people search by MSRP and it is outside most price's search range or it is a huge "turn off" at Toyota's website.

All those are just reflections of how Toyota feels about EVs...

· · 1 year ago

Anyone know the best place to pick up used EVs coming off leases?

· · 1 year ago

@MMF,
Counterpoint.
1. RAV4 EV is larger and has more cargo space than all the cheaper alternatives. Real 100+ mile range is a big deal because it allows use throughout a sizable metro area without charging. People who just want an EV for short well defined commute should not buy it. Many people like me don't need or want all the SUV attributes. I purposely didn't get 4Motion on my Passat wagon and I don't care that the RAV is "only" FWD. It simply isn't needed in most of California where this car is sold. I'm OK with the fact that I will need to take another car to Tahoe or LA once or twice a year.

2. Yes, the efficiency is lower than smaller, lighter, more aerodynamic vehicles. It's punching a big hole in the air. It is what it is. I would have preferred if they had converted the Venza as it would have retained most of the cargo space but had better aerodynamic performance. The operating cost difference between RAV and Leaf is much smaller than RAV and any ICE.

3. The high MSRP is only a "turn off" to those who are not serious about buying an EV. Serious EV buyers know that the sticker price is reduced by rebates, tax credits, and special lease deals by manufacturers. Those customers can easily find out what the current Toyota deal is and how much dealer discount should be negotiated.

The biggest problem is that people don't know about the car. The fact that Toyota is only doing targeted online advertising and none in traditional media is the biggest reflection on how Toyota feels about EVs.

· · 1 year ago

>>> SVL · 2 days ago - There won't be a repeat of 2003. Even if there was, companies like Nissan and Tesla would continue to work on building out their EV program with increasing success. <<<<<

While Tesla, Nissan and Mitsubishi will likely continue to make EVs, there absolutely is a chance of 2003 repeating itself. Toyota, Honda, GM, et al, would LOVE to squash the CARB-ZEV mandates, and they are getting increasingly more difficult to comply with, particularly in 2018!!!

Here's the last formal attempt to stop CARB-ZEV:

http://www.globalautomakers.org/sites/default/files/document/attachments...

· · 1 year ago

@Tony,

I really question choice of data timeframe noted in the Automakers Wavier Request. From footnote #26 in the request:
-- "Only 1,162 of the MY2012 vehicles registered in California between January 1, 2012 and October 18, 2012 have been BEVs.", and
-- "BEVs have made up 0.13% of all MY2012 vehicle registrations in California between January 1, 2012 and October 18, 2012."

Looking at California New Car Dealers Association: Comprehensive Analysis Covering Second Quarter 2013
http://www.cncda.org/secure/GetFile.aspx?ID=2583
- Electric Registration for California
-- 2011: 5302 (0.4%),
-- 2012: 6197 (0.4%),
-- 2013 (H1): 9708 (1.1%), note: Model S accounted for 4714 of 9708, 12% of luxury registrations

Current BEV registrations for January-July 2013 are ~10x of those reported in the ZEV Wavier request. For similar 10 months in 2013 (vs. 2012): ~16,000 vs. 1,162 (~1.2% vs 0.13%). Data source for both reports is listed as from Polk.

Of significance is the increase in BEV registration numbers starting in October 2012, as Nissan Leaf US sales began to consistently exceed 1500/mo, & Tesla ramped up production beyond 150/week. Hopefully "current market" is considered when the wavier is reviewed, as the number of BEV models offered for sale has more than doubled in the past year. A ~10x increase in CA BEV registrations can't be ignored.

ps: The Year-over-Year percents in the H1 Report for Tesla kind of stand out.

· · 1 year ago

Brian, are you suggesting that they are cherry picking data? There's a reason Toyota, Honda and Fiat/Chrysler are the most antagonistic toward electric cars; you can't be for stopping or slowing EVs if you're selling lots of them! So, they sell as few as the CARB-ZEV mandates allow.

· · 1 year ago

A car that can travel 300 miles on a charge is going to destroy any car that can only travel 80-120 miles per charge. Even if is a Hybrid with a range of 650 miles.

I think at this stage everyone knows Tesla is not going away, everyone knows it is an iconic car, a car that is going to become a legand in a few years.

If i had the money and i think the majority of the people had the money they would purchase a Tesla in a flash.

Now when the Model X comes out next year the situation is going to be even worse for manufacturers, an SUV that can travel 300-400 miles per charge with 7 seats ...at the moment there is nothign on the horison that will come close, and even though the RAV4 is a nice car and you would think people would buy them, 120 miles just does not cut it.

If they had to get the range up to 200-250 miles range then i suspect it would take some sales from Tesla but as i see it now Tesla has no competition and no near future competition.

When they release their 3rd gen, that is when other manufacturers will wake up and start competing. They will quickly have a 300 miles ford focus and a 300 mile VW and a 300 miles Nissan.But if Tesla can evolve their tech just a little they could be moving the goal posts even further away and be selling not a car that has a 200 mile range but a car that has a 600 mile range.

Tesla is on the forefront of battery technology, they are designing thier own battery shapes and improving battery range all the time in the labs i suspect. And if this development goes the way fo most electronics they will be producing targets the larger manufacturers struggle to reach.

I suspect Tesla is in for a long ride, i dont see them slowing down for a long time, and if anything i see them possibly producing 2 3rd gen cars at the same time, one with 200 miles range for around $35 000 and one with a 200 mile range for around $25 000.

· · 1 year ago

I believe e car is not being Marketed properly by the manufacturer. I live in NY and was EV shopping knowing a Tesla is out if my reach at the moment I wanted alternatives. I researched and found this car hidden in materials. I quickly found this car is NOT available on the East Coast. I called the local dealers and they never heard of the vehicle. I provided them with more information about the car and about EV in general. I finally emailed Toyota to find out how and where could I get one. The answer was that the car is not available for me to purchase and they stated there were no local dealers trained to support the car in the event of a problem. I asked to be placed on a waiting list so that I could be notified the moment the car became available. It was explained that there is no such resource at Toyota. I was thanked for my interest and then left hanging. That is why he car is not popular. It is not for sale! I wound up buying 2 Ford Focus EV's.

· · 1 year ago

yes! Compliance..bad taste to that word.
How about the size? Too wide for my driveway and too long for the break in the hill. WE don't ALL live in Pleasanton!
Such a waste, since the first one was such a winner!!
To be honest, I would buy one to gut and rebuild in to a new chassis, but times are hard these days and there would be a LOT of reverse engineering..Maybe if I won the lottery, but then I could get an "S"....

· · 52 weeks ago

On the price issue, even though the current Toyota promotions are not as good as the ones from 1 or 3 months ago, they still put the price of the car at about $35k if you opt for the lease offer and then purchase the car after the lease. The lease offer gives you about $15k Toyota lease cash which is then reflected on the car's residual value (about $20k) after the three year lease is over. If you expect to keep the car for 6 years or more then it makes financial sense for a nice smaller SUV. (Of course, I do not know what car loan rates will be like in three years, but they may not be so high, yet. Also, if you lease you don't get the Federal tax credit but you still get the California rebate.)

Despite the fact that this car is a compliance car, you still get Toyota quality and their warranty. Our Highlander Hybrid is still running great after 6 years. The RAV4 has nearly the same space as our Highlander (pre-2008 version) but drives more like the Camry. As a new owner, I like it.

After a month with the car, I'll post again about the mileage, but it seems that driving on ECO will get more than 100 miles per charge--even with LA commutes.

· · 51 weeks ago

@SoCalRiku: Glad you like the car, but I wouldn't get too complacent about Toyota quality. Search for Tony Williams' posts regarding the RAV4 EV's numerous glitches, experienced by himself and others.

Also writing here just to mention the bad news we got on Mitsu's Outlander PHEV mentioned earlier in this discussion, which I'd hoped to take a long look at next year. Long waiting lists in Japan (partly due to the temporary shutdown to sort out battery problems), commitments to the ongoing European rollout, and limited battery manufacturing capacity have combined to push back the North America launch date into 2015.

I remain convinced that going to Europe first was a mistake; Mitsu's on thin ice in the U.S., and the O-PHEV could have had the PHEV CUV market to itself here for a year or more. Slipping the launch to 2015 leaves the door open to competitors now amply forewarned, most notably GM's MPV5.

· · 48 weeks ago

I'll tell you why they're not flying out the door. One reason - they're ugly!!! There's just going to be alot of people who like me, it doesn't matter if it has a 500 mile range they're not going to buy it if it looks aggressively Asian in design. Isn't it okay if we each have some sort of artistic standards? Or, I can think of a lot of people who won't buy a product if it sounds stupid. Even if the the Rav4 had 500 mile range and it looked better, if they renamed it the Toyota Bozo E-Devastator, how many woul they sell? Food for thought.

· · 24 weeks ago

One thing is for certain. The Rav4EV is Toyota's hidden secret. Who care about the politics of why Toyota made the EV. Let them get the CARB credits, I get a GREAT car in the process. The fact remains that the car is a winner.

I'm in sales and drive 60-80 miles on an average day. I plug it in at night and it's full in the morning. 40KW or 1.21GigaWatts... It doesn't matter; 1 night of charge gives me a full day of driving. There is room for ALL of my demos and displays with all the seats up so I've got room for 4 peeps. I don't buy gas, period. (That's $500/mo in my pocket less a hundred bucks for the electric) The car has great styling for an SUV. Compared to my Acadia... my Rav is looking good.

At full retail, however, the EV has and should sit on the lot. But a $299 lease ($16,500 Toyota credit) makes it a much better value than pumping gas every week. I think the Rav4EV got off to a slow start but sales are picking up speed. I had to search for a dealer who even had one in stock, most dealers wanted me to reserve one. When I found the one I wanted, the dealer was very helpful and made the sale.

· · 24 weeks ago

I get a kick out of people who say electric cars are ugly, more specifically this car is ugly, it's like saying: "what, I can't accept that $100 dollar bill it's wrinkled"... you people are missing the point

· · 24 weeks ago

Why isn't RAV4 EV more popular? They were on the right track with SUV + EV but 50K MSRP just means you are paying all your fuel savings up front. That plus it wont even make it to my cottage. I'd have to have another car just for my trips over 2 hours.

· · 22 weeks ago

Not ALL Toyota dealers are down on the RAV4 EV. I got mine at SF Toyota and couldn't get outta there for less than 3 hours of mutual chatter about the vehicle and how cool it is. It is a blast to drive. I drove a Tesla and if I lived in the burbs it might be a good choice but I live in the mountains with twisty bumpy though paved roads. The RAV4 is a truck of sorts, with truck wheels and suspension and takes this with no problem. 100-145 miles range opens up new usage models over our other BEV the Ford Focus EV. We have a standby gas guzzler (2008 Prius) which we drive begrudgingly once a month as a just in case car.
Cost? ~$460/mo including tire/wheel package and taxes. After California $2500 rebate the total cost for 36 mos is $14k. The residual is about 20k but the value of the vehicle is likely to be about $8k higher. I could sell it at the end of the lease for about $28k and recover that $8k against my costs for 3 years. That would bring outta pocket to $6k for 3 years driving! If it is not worth more than $20k I just turn it in.

Driving 2 EVs I had gotten used to fuel costs being buried into my reduced electric bill and netting about $40/mo for 2 cars. (PGE EV rate has no tiers so I saved big time on other electric) so I faced sticker shock when I had to fill my rental car up for a trip to SoCal! WOW, forgot how expensive gasoline was!

Make no mistake, this is a world class EV drive and battery in a cheap SUV. But there is nothing else out there between small EV car and full on Tesla (which is way to big for me)

· · 21 weeks ago

@laguna_b: If the rest of those numbers work for you, that's fine, but I don't think you're going to be able to sell a 3-year-old RAV4 EV for $28k in 2017. More likely you'll be tossing 'em the keys. Just as well - I certainly hope we'll have better choices by then.

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