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Toyota pioneers the electric crossover, again by Richard Cazeau
In a market with very few electric vehicles, and already a leader in hybrid vehicle development, Toyota opted to skip the idea of making an all new hatchback or sedan to compete against the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt or Ford Focus EV. Instead, it resurrected the RAV4 EV which had a previous run from 1997 to 2003. More than resurrecting a well-liked vehicle, which still has about 750 units on the road, this second-gen model is designed to deliver the best packaging for EV components, while relieving range anxiety and providing a product that delivers zero emissions.
FROM BIG IDEA TO BIG DEAL
Conversations between senior management at Toyota started in May 2010 to bring back the electric version of the RAV4 EV, with the mandate to improve range and add versatility giving consumers a new kind of SUV. Engineers wanted to produce an EV that had no compromises or sacrifices for the typical crossover buyer. With intentions to get the this vehicle to market immediately, the new RAV4 was developed in less than 20 months by a key group of engineers from both Toyota Motor Corporation and Tesla Motors in North America.
The catalyst behind the collaboration between Tesla and Toyota was Toyota's CEO Akio Toyoda. The outcome of the collaboration is a Tesla designed and produced battery and electric powertrain, giving the all new RAV4 EV the longest EPA estimated driving range rating of any non-luxury EV at 93 miles in normal mode and113 miles in an extended range mode.
For home charging, Toyota has partnered with charging system industry leader Leviton. The full-charge time for the new RAV4 EV is five to six hours using a 240V charger, one of the notable down-sides of the vehicle, at roughly double that of the competition.
PERFORMING LIKE NO OTHER
The drive feel of this new SUV will change any preconceived notions of poor performance and unpredictable power.
Using a Toyota AC induction motor and a Tesla front wheel single shift drivetrain, the new RAV4 EV makes 115 kW which is an estimated 154 horsepower along with a 218 lb-ft of torque in Normal Mode and 273 lb-ft and Sport Mode. Buyers will instantly discover a surprising amount of power and an accelerator feel unlike any other EV. Acceleration is better than expected, especially in the Sport Mode and is perhaps the single largest improvement over the first-gen model, which averaged about 18 seconds to 60 mph.
Similar to a Power mode that you would you would find in many Toyota green vehicles, the Sport mode animates the RAV4 EV with a more aggressive accelerator pedal feel, higher maximum speed and power as well as adjusting the positive torque output. 0-60 can happen in 8.6 seconds in Normal Mode, or in as little as 7.0 seconds in Sport Mode with maximum speeds of 85 mph (normal mode) and 100 mph (sport mode).
Helping add to the engaging feel of the RAV4 EV is a B-mode on the shifter. Like a low gear on a conventional automatic to help slow the car on hills, B-mode delivers more aggressive regenerative braking. When combined with Sport mode the crossover is overall more responsive, while also helping to improve mileage.
In adjusting climate control to match driving styles, three different options for the climate controls have been designed: Normal, Eco Lo and Eco Hi. The normal option acts as conventional vehicle with no limits on the blower, compressor or heater usage, yet has the most impact on the EV range. The Eco Lo setting is recommended for a balance in cabin comfort and better range. It also reduces the blower level, compressor and electric heater operations to reduce power consumption. Finally, in the Eco Hi scenario, it sacrifices comfort for driving range reducing blower, compressor and heater levels which affords up to 40% in power savings.
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