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Toyota RAV4 EV

Toyota RAV4 EV
The RAV4 EV was an all-electric version of the popular RAV4 SUV produced by Toyota. It was sold from 1997 to 2003.

Manufacturer Toyota
Production 1997-2003
Assembly Tahara, Aichi, Japan
Toyota City, Japan
Class Mini SUV
Body style(s) 4-door SUV
Layout FF layout
Transmission(s) 1-speed automatic
Wheelbase 94.9 in (2410 mm)
Length 156.7 in (3980 mm)
Width 66.7 in (1694 mm)
Height 64.4 in (1636 mm)

The first fleet version of the RAV4 EV became available on a limited basis in 1997. In 2001 it was possible for businesses, cities or utilities to lease one or two of these cars. Toyota then actually sold or leased 328 RAV4 EVs to the general public in 2003, at which time the program was terminated despite waiting lists of prospective customers.

The RAV4 EV closely resembles the regular internal combustion engine (ICE) version - without a tailpipe - and has a governed top speed of 78 mph (~126 km/h) with a range of 100 to 120 miles (160 to 190 km). The 95 amp-hour NiMH battery pack has a capacity of 27 kWh, charges inductively and has proven to be surprisingly durable. Some RAV4 EVs have achieved over 150,000 miles (240,000 km) on the original battery pack. It was also one of the few vehicles with a single speed automatic transmission at that time.Toyota tested the RAV4 EV in Japan for 300,000 miles (480,000 km) over two years before introducing the vehicle in the United States.

Besides the batteries, controller and motor, the remaining systems in the RAV4 EV are comparable to the gas-powered RAV4, such as power brakes, power steering, air conditioning, tire wear and suspension components except for the power sources involved. The power brakes use an electric pump to provide vacuum instead of deriving vacuum from the engine manifold while the power steering and air conditioning systems use electric motors instead of mechanical energy delivered by fan belts. The passenger compartment heater is electrical.


The RAV4 EV has a governed top speed of 78 miles per hour (126 km/h), a tested 0-60 time of around 18 seconds (depending on state-of-charge on the batteries) and a range of 80 to 120 miles (130 to 190 km). Mileage depends on the same factors as a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle, mainly rolling resistance and average speed (aerodynamic drag).


The RAV4 EV has 24 12-volt 95Ah NiMH batteries capable of storing 27.4 kWh of energy. The RAV4 EV's batteries can be recharged from being fully depleted to fully charged in about 5 hours, and are monitored with a passive battery balancing system. Charging is supplied via magnetic induction by a wall-mounted 6000-Watt charging unit on a 220 volt, 30 amp, North American "clothes dryer"-type plug.

In addition, the RAV4 EV has a charge timer built into the dashboard that enables the vehicle to start charging at a specific time. As the RAV4 EV easily becomes the main cost of electricity in an average-sized home, this enables the owner to use a Time-Of-Day Meter to reduce electricity costs. This configuration is a standard practice with RAV4 EV owners. The price of electricity at night depends on the carrier, but is usually in the range of 60% of the normal rate. In the use of charging the RAV4 EV, this equates to a cheaper cost-per-mile, roughly equivalent to a vehicle capable of 166.6 mpg-US (1.412 L/100 km; 200.1 mpg-imp), based on a price of USD 3.00 per gallon.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency listed mileage ratings for the RAV4 EV in its yearly Fuel Economy Guide from 2000 through 2003. The 2003 model recorded city mileage equivalent to 125 mpg-US (1.88 L/100 km; 150 mpg-imp), and 100 mpg-US (2.4 L/100 km; 120 mpg-imp) on the highway. Estimated combined mileage was 112 mpg-US (2.10 L/100 km; 135 mpg-imp).

Public availability

RAV4 EVs were only available for three-year fleet lease, not for sale and not for lease to the public, at a few dealerships beginning in 1997. In 2001, leases were made available to small "fleets of one" purportedly run by small businesses.

Rear view of one of the 328 RAV4 EVs sold to the public.

In March 2002, due to a shift in corporate policy, the Toyota RAV4-EV was made available for sale to the general public, but only 328 of them sold. No one knows for certain what prompted Toyota to change their position on the RAV4-EV, since they had long since fulfilled their obligations under the MOA with the California Air Resources Board's zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate via its fleet lease program.

The MSRP was USD 42,000; but in California, ZIP-grant rebates of USD 9,000, decreasing in 2003 to USD 5,000, and a USD 4,000 credit from the Internal Revenue Service brought the price down to a more palatable USD 29,000 (USD 33,000 for some 2003 deliveries), including the home charger.

By November 2002, the 328 RAV4-EV’s Toyota had committed to were sold, yet demand was continuing to build. Toyota was caught off-guard by the extent of the demand because the vehicle's retail buyers had outsold the projections far faster than the vehicles could be supplied to market - despite very little advertising, and very little public awareness of the product.

There was certainly a market for these vehicles, because many GM EV1, Ford Ranger EV and Honda EV Plus drivers had been reluctantly forced to surrender their cars – in some cases to the crusher – and had become disillusioned with the carmakers. Potential buyers were encouraged by the perception that Toyota was finally playing fair.

As it turned out, there were more RAV4-EVs sold than there were cars available. It is noteworthy that Toyota did, in fact, play fair and filled every last order despite the fact that the last few dozen vehicles had to be painstakingly assembled from spare parts due to a shortfall of production components. This unexpected development caused deliveries to trickle on into September 2003. It also caused variations in the vehicles such as heated seats, retractable antennae, mats, etc.

Once the last of the 328 EVs was sold in November 2002, the website disappeared and the EV program was unceremoniously scrapped. No additional cars could be bought because Toyota didn’t have anything to sell. The RAV4-EV was based on the 1996-2000 gasoline powered RAV4, which had become obsolete. Production of additional vehicles would only be possible under one of two different scenarios. The first would be if the RAV4-EV was redesigned to fit the 2003 RAV4, and the second would be if production of the 1996 version was resumed. Toyota claimed that tens of thousands of orders would have been necessary for them to resume or continue production, and development time would have been a major obstacle.

Whether or not Toyota wanted to continue production, it was unlikely to be able to do so because the EV-95 battery was no longer available. Chevron had inherited control of the worldwide patent rights for the NiMH EV-95 battery when it merged with Texaco, which had purchased them from General Motors. Chevron's unit won a USD 30,000,000 settlement from Toyota and Panasonic, and the production line for the large NiMH batteries was closed down and dismantled. This case was settled in the ICC International Court of Arbitration, and not publicised due to a gag order placed on all parties involved. Only smaller NiMH batteries, incapable of powering an electric vehicle or plugging in, are currently allowed by Chevron-Texaco.

So for those seven months in 2002 a full-sized production electric car was available for sale to the general public for the first time in decades. Buying one wasn't easy, however; just one special sales person at only a dozen dealers - and only in California - was authorized to sell the Toyota RAV4-EV. If an individual wasn't already aware of the car, they were generally unable to buy (or even see) one. Many would-be purchasers were steered instead to Toyota's Prius gasoline electric hybrid vehicle, despite having asked about the plug-in car.


Toyota RAV4 EV leased to the public, circa 2001.

Toyota discontinued the RAV4 EV program one day after the passing of new air-quality requirements by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB eliminated most of the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) requirement, substituting a greater number of Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicles (PZEVs) to meet the requirement. A Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) category was also added. This program requirement was designed to obtain equivalent emissions reductions by substituting less expensive, more general purpose vehicles.

Continuing support

Like other manufacturers, Toyota began destroying RAV4 EVs as they came off lease, after lease continuances were denied to owners. In 2005 an agreement was struck between Toyota and DontCrush.com (now PlugInAmerica.com) to stop the destruction and facilitate the continued operation of owned and leased vehicles. While no longer sold, the vehicle is still supported by selected Toyota service centers (mainly in California) and a strong owner community.


RAV4 EV Production by Year (est.)
1997 69 (fleet lease only)
1998 359 (fleet lease only)
1999 255 (fleet lease only)
2000 106 (fleet lease only)
2001 160 (fleet lease only)
2002 - 1st half 218 (fleet lease) plus 147 (sold/lease-purchase)
2002 - 2nd half 82* (fleet lease) plus 153 (sold/lease-purchase)
2003 - 1st half 28 (sold/lease-purchase)
Total 1575*

* Indicates estimate, based on serial numbers 1001 through 2575


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