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In the not-too-distant past, electric vehicles weren't the sort of thing anyone took very seriously. It's true that some of early incarnations of the automobile were battery-powered, not to mention the many concept cars dreamed up over the years as a showcase for new technology.
But now is the time to sit up and take notice. With the arrival of vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S and the Honda Fit EV, the all-electric vehicle is here again and it looks like this time it's here to stay.
One of the newest entries into the forum is Toyota's new Rav4 EV, starting at $49,800. With the Rav4 already being an exceptionally popular crossover in its own right, the decision to use it as a platform is a clever marketing and engineering move.
The increased ground clearance the crossover provides eliminates the need for any over-engineering as far as suspension is concerned. The grill and front fascia have been redesigned to allow for a more aerodynamic design in order to decrease the Rav4's drag coefficient. In other words, you can go further on a single charge.
Speaking of range, the Rav4 EV's huge battery -- with a capacity of 41.8 kW-hrs -- needs just six hours to reach a full charge. Powered by a 154-horsepower electric motor, the Rav4 EV has a maximum range of about 100 miles, although this would vary depending on factors like driving style and traffic.
Inside, there is still seating for five people and 36.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats up, and 73 cubic feet with the rear seats down. None of the practicality of the standard Rav4 has been sacrificed in order to make room for a battery or motor. There are also standard safety features such as six airbags and Toyota's Safety Connect emergency response system.
The Rav4 EV is the perfect car for the buyer who is looking for a zero emissions, all-electric vehicle but needs more space and range than cars like the Nissan Leaf or Honda Fit EV can provide. With a few accessories, the price easily jumps over $50,000, so don't expect the price of admission to be cheap. Then again, new technologies never are and likely never will be.
The 2013 Toyota Rav4 EV is available in a single base model. Prices start at $49,800 easily exceed $50,000 once accessories are added. However, a federal tax credit should knock off around $7,500 off that price, and there might be local tax incentives as well.
The Rav4 EV's exterior is slightly different than the standard car's: The grill, front fascia and side mirrors have been redesigned for improved aerodynamics and an increase in the Rav4's maximum range. Inside, there is an IntelliTouch display with dual-zone climate control, mp3 and iPod connectivity and an available SatNav system, so there are plenty of high-tech goodies to go along with your high-tech drivetrain.
Much cheaper than the Rav4 EV, but also much smaller
Very affordable electric car with good range, but much less cargo space than the Rav4 EV
Competitive range compared to the Rav4 and good interior space, but can't compete on cargo space
If you want everything the Rav4 offers without the lifestyle changes required by electric vehicles, get a standard RAV4