Did The Rav4 EV Get Overlooked?

Amid all the hype for electric vehicles, some EVs aren’t getting the attention they deserve. While everyone is oohing and ahhing over Tesla vehicles, Toyota quietly launched an electric SUV similar to the RAV4.

Toyota’s new electric SUV will only be available in Europe for the time being. It's called X Prologue, and it closely resembles the RAV4. Toyota's timing is perfect because interest in electric SUVs is rising. Yet, this isn't Toyota's first rodeo. Far from it.

Rav4 ev first gen

Not many people know this, but Toyota has launched an electric version of the RAV4 twice. Both times, production for this futuristic vehicle was short-lived. It's rather surprising, given how popular the RAV4 is, and the rising interest in EVs. Let's take a closer look at both generations.

The First Generation Of The RAV4 EV

Believe it or not, but Toyota launched the first-generation RAV4 EV in 1997. Toyota offered this vehicle as a fleet option. Cities, businesses, or utility companies could lease a few of these cars. In 2002, Toyota started selling or leasing units of this electric SUV to the general public. It sold or leased only 328 units to the general public when it decided to stop production. There was a waiting list for this vehicle, so no one knows why Toyota made that decision. 

The Second Generation Of The RAV4 EV

In 2010, Toyota signed a joint development agreement with Tesla. The agreement required Toyota to invest millions of dollars into Tesla. The brainchild of this cooperation was the RAV4 EV. It was one of the first full-sized EVs coming out of Toyota to the states. 

In 2010, Toyota sold one of their manufacturing plants for a meager $42 million. Once Tesla went public that same year, Toyota purchased $50 million of Tesla stock. This placed Toyota in a prime position to take advantage of the technology Tesla is world-renowned for. The Tesla Roadster, their key product back then, had enough battery and energy-efficient parts to get an estimated 200 miles per charge. Toyota saw a lot of potential in Tesla. That's why Toyota decided to partner with Tesla to produce the second generation RAV4 EV.

Second Generation RAV4 EV Specs

Toyota’s RAV4 EV was an impressive feat during its time. Production began for this vehicle in 2012. Toyota discontinued it in 2014. During its short two years, the RAV4 EV offered the following features:

  • An impressive single-charge rating of 103 miles
  • IntelliTouch touch-sensor controls as well as navigation, satellite radio availability, and music streaming via Bluetooth
  • Lithium metal-oxide RAV4 EV battery pack and charging system developed by Tesla
  • Powertrain components supplied by Tesla (motor, gearbox, etc.)
  • Electric motor that could push the RAV4 EV from 0-60 mph in 8.6 seconds
  • Notable agility

What made this vehicle different from other electric cars was the partnership with Tesla Motors. But with the RAV4 EV, you got more space at a better price for an electric vehicle.
The price for a RAV4 EV started at $49,800. That was pretty reasonable for an electric SUV at the time.

The second-generation RAV4 EV had the potential to change a lot of things about Toyota. So what happened? Why did Toyota kill the production of this vehicle after only two years?

Why Was The RAV4 EV Overlooked?

Rav4 EV badge

The RAV4 was an excellent electric SUV. It had a solid electric motor, battery, etc. from Tesla and a RAV4 body. What's not to like? At the time, everyone thought that the RAV4 EV would become one of the most popular EVs. Instead, it went belly up after only two years of production.

Toyota sold only 192 units of this vehicle in 2012. In 2013, Toyota sold 1,096 units. In 2014, Toyota sold only 1,201 units. A total of 2,489 units of this electric SUV were ever sold. It was only available in California, which may have contributed to its disappointing sales figure.

Despite all the impressive features the RAV4 EV offered, it came with a major drawback. It took a long time to achieve a full charge. If you didn't have a Level 2 charging station, it took at least 24 hours to get a full charge. That wasn't practical for daily drivers. That's the main reason why there wasn't enough interest in this electric SUV. It played a big part in Toyota's decision to discontinue production after the 2014 model year. We speculate that the following factors played a small part too:

  • Limited availability (only in California)
  • Not enough interest in electric SUVs (the RAV4 EV may have been too ahead of its time)

Toyota's agreement with Tesla expired in 2014, and it was never renewed. In 2016, Toyota sold off its stake in Tesla. Toyota never announced why it decided to discontinue its joint venture with Tesla. Many people suspect it's because Toyota wanted to establish itself as a capable EV manufacturer without any outside help.

The good news is the Toyota RAV4 has been electrified again... sort of. In July 2020, Toyota released a hybrid version of the RAV4 called the RAV4 Prime. It produces 302 horsepower. Unlike the X Prologue, the RAV4 Prime is available in the states.