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Toyota & Tesla announce RAV4 EV

During the 2010 LA Auto Show held recently in the US, Toyota and Tesla took the wraps off an electric SUV concept vehicle called the RAV4 EV.

RAV 4 Electric Vehicle

Toyota Rav 4 (Electric Vehicle) pictured above.

The RAV4 EV is the first electric vehicle that Toyota has developed with Tesla, which is perhaps better known to motorists as the company behind the sporty all-electric Tesla roadsters that look like Lotus sports cars.

Unlike most car show concept vehicles, however, the RAV4 EV is no mere static mock up meant just to wow with looks and little else. Toyota will be putting the RAV4 EV into limited production and says it will build 35 vehicles for use in a demonstration and evaluation programme running through next year.

Toyota says it plans to introduce a final production version in the US in 2012. In the US, the regular RAV4 is available with an optional third-row bench seat, making it a seven seater. There is no word yet if this option will also be available on the RAV4 EV.

In the UK, there is currently no option to purchase the RAV4 with a full seven seats. This means British motorists seeking seven seats from Toyota have to opt for the mammoth LC V8 or the smaller but superb Verso.

There is also no word yet on whether the RAV4 EV will be made available in the UK. This means that those of us looking for truly green seven-seat motoring from Toyota may be stuck with the recently-announced Prius hybrid, which is slated to arrive in Britain next year.

Toyota says it is aiming to give the final production version of the RAV4 EV a real-world range of 100 miles. The concept vehicle shown at the LA Auto Show is based on the existing production Toyota RAV4 and uses a Tesla electric power train.

Jim Lentz, who heads up Toyota Motor Sales US, spoke to the press about the relationship between Toyota and Tesla. He said the joint work by Toyota and Tesla was driven by Toyota President Akio Toyoda’s desire to implement a new development model incorporating Tesla’s fast-moving and streamlined approach.

Tesla had the job of producing and providing the battery and associated parts in accordance with engineering specifications set by Toyota. These specific requirements governed things like performance, quality and durability.

Toyota, on the other hand, had the job of leading the project’s development and manufacturing. Toyota was also tasked with ensuring the seamless integration into the vehicle of the power train delivered by Tesla.

Jim Lentz added that customer experience was the focus from the beginning. The aim was to produce a vehicle with drivability characteristics that replicated as closely as possible those of the regular RAV4.

Though based on the conventional production RAV4, the Toyota RAV4 EV shown at the LA Auto Show came with a range of exterior styling cues that differ from those on the RAV4 currently offered for sale in the UK. The RAV4 EV carried such changes as a new front bumper, grille and fog lamps, as well as headlights, unique EV badges and a custom paint colour that is exclusive to the EV.

Inside the cabin, the EV boasts custom seat trim, multimedia displays in the dashboard and a push-button gear selector. Perhaps of greatest interest, however, is the fact that the EV sacrifices no luggage space compared to the conventional RAV4.

Now, if only we can get our hands on this car here in the UK, our green seven-seater SUV dreams will have come true.

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