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Car Tech Video: 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV
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Car Tech Video: 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV

8:45 /

Yes it's electric and yes it has a Tesla power train, but the limited range of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV plus the slow charge times make this car a confusing mess.

Well, I'll be honest with you, like most electric cars, this one-- it kinda didn't have to exist. It was mandated by a law in California, not by consumer demand anywhere, but let's see if a shotgun wedding can actually produce a happy marriage, in this case between Toyota and Tesla as we drive the RAV4 Electric and check the tech. Okay, the big headline on this car of course is the fact that it's a Toyota with a Tesla Powertrain. The other interesting story here is this electric vehicle is not built on the latest RAV4 which is radically different, but on the outgoing most recent RAV4, and of course it's got a big ole battery slung underneath it which shows if you look in the back that you're not gonna have any impediment to cargo carrying or passengers base inside. Now I spot one of these guys by the different face, obviously it's almost grille less, electric badges abound all around it. You might spot the little lower ground clearance, it's like an inch or so, maybe 2 inches depending where you measure it, and the fact that you'll probably be standing in California if you buy one 'cause that's the only place they're sold. Talk about screens, we got plenty of them here-- one, two, three-- all LCD, no gauges, no dials. The one in the center, the instrument panel, pretty basic electric stuff, you've got range and charge level on the left along with that arc that tells you if you're dipping into power or regenerating. In the middle is your speedometer, odometer, gear position, selector indicator, but they aren't really any gears-- that's a different thing and that big blue ring says you're in normal mode, that guy turns to red when you're in sport mode. We'll talk about that in a moment. On the right is a multi-display, you roll through that with this button on the right and it's going to give you a driving range indicator, efficiency, trip efficiency, ECO coach-- you get the idea, CO2 reduction, all these things that are electric powertrain oriented. That's the IP. Now let's go to the climate control. This is all new for Toyota, notice as I go through temperatures it kinds rolls them through. Cool little animation there as I raise or lower the temperature and that screen is all of your climate control system including level of eco-ness. Now this means I can go to four different settings of how aggressive the climate system is. Eco-Low, it's gonna buy us a little more torque power savings. Eco-High, it's really gonna buy us torque power savings. Personally, I'd rather that'd be figured out by the car. There's a little bit too much in terms of levels of settings for me to worry about, but we're at that kind of gimmicky error for electric, so I'm not too surprised. Okay, now to the main show, the big LCD here now an 8-inch so big they had to get rid of dedicated buttons. There aren't any, everything is on screen now. Well save for one, you've got a home button here. I'm surprised apple hasn't sued them yet. It's just like on an iPhone or an iPod or an iPad. First off, they break up the media across an endless number of buckets-- radios under here which includes AM-FM, Satellite, and HD Radio. On those same tabs you can go over to USB for a thumb driver, an iPod, Bluetooth streaming, auxiliary jack as well. Now you're into the nTune apps which are still kinda class leading, being OpenTable, Pandora, MovieTickets, iHeartRadio, and unique on this vehicle, a charging station map. That's where you're gonna find out where the nearest charging stations are, if the damn thing would ever work, which it won't. Which brings us back to the navigation system in this car, which we have seen before on Toyota vehicles except it's got a couple of different tweaks. First off all, here is a split screen with energy efficiency taking up part of the map if you want it to. But you've also got this EV menu down here which will give you a range map, and this is kind of like a sonar around your current location that will show you in that big blue circle roughly how far you can go, as the crow flies that's not the same as driving distance before you are flat out of gas hit it to a round trip and die cuts it in half. So they've woven a number of EV centric features throughout the different screens, however, oddly enough on the navigation map, you still have a set of POIs that include gas stations. Now one choice on the sound system as there tends to be an electric, some plug-ins that's not gonna be a huge power, big thumping multi-subsystem ,'cause that draws a lot of current, instead up here you got this sort of persistent music icon that takes you to one of the annoyances on this vehicle. You have to go up here and go to this slider to get system volume. First of all, it's not very accurate-- it's always leggy behind me. Same thing goes for tuning, there's no knob that tunes through either kilohertz, megahertz, or satellite radio stations. You're gonna miss that and I wish they had a back button, so often I want a physical back button, not one the screen that tends to be in different places at different times. Now in terms of technology controls for the drive train, you've got a pre-style shifter, it's an electronic selector, it doesn't move anything. Up here the reverse is gonna get you into your rear camera which is standard on the RAV4 Electric, neutral, drive, pretty simple, and then over here the B gets you additional regenerative braking or a drag braking for going down hills or long grates-- pretty handy. Here's your sport button. This actually increases the amount of torque, though not amount of horsepower available from the powertrain. We're gonna talk about that in a minute when we get underneath the hood. Steering of course is all electric, there's no engine to drive hydraulics, now we'll see how that feels when we're out on the road. No paddle shifters 'cause there's no transmission-- this is a single-speed inlet Tesla style, a reduction gear box but there are no gears synthetic or otherwise. Now the half of Tesla's secret sauce is here under the hood. The motor it's associated electronics. Let's talk about the power [unk] in this car. It's a very interesting story, 154 horsepower, you'd say that is not much for a big crossover. But the torque is what it's all about. This guy will have either 218 or 273 foot pounds, those are nice numbers. Why two numbers? Sport mode, remember that button. If you're in normal mode, this guy has less torque and a lower top speed-- 85. If you're sport mode, the higher torque number and a higher top speed-- 100 miles an hour. Zero to 60 on this guy is either 8.6 seconds or 7 seconds flat. Again, sport mode makes the big difference and of course you're gonna peel off a lot of better range if you're lead footing it. Now in terms of range and MPGE, the MPGE is relatively soft of this vehicle. It's a big one, 76 miles per gallon equivalent. Range is middle about 103, though Toyota says you may get as high as 113 if you're driving in normal mode. Now just as our power plants got a multi-tiered storey, so does the charging slide of the vehicle, because you got a couple of different charging mode. First of all, there's a normal mode that gets you a little lesser range, about 92 miles on a charge they say, but it will prolong the life of the battery or there's an extended range mode that's gonna tax the battery a little more and that will get you 113 miles of range, hence the EPA middles it at 103 like I mentioned. Now let's talk about charge times, if you got the top charger, a 240 volt 40 amp charger, you can do this guy up in 4 to 5 hours from pretty much dead flat. Again that's standard or extended mode, there's the difference in time. If you got a 240, 16 amp, kind of the wimpiest of 240 circuits, you're looking at 12 or 15 hours. Now here's the kicker, if you're on a 110 or 120 outlet, 44 to 52 hours to do a full charge, I mean, you forget you own this thing in that much time. So absolutely it must be hooked up to a high-current charger, that's gonna run you about 1,600 bucks to have the Toyota approve one installed at your place. Okay, put her into drive and immediately you hear that odd little noise electric cars have to make up to-- what is it, 22 miles an hour-- very space age on this one. But more importantly, what do you feel? And that's where of course electric torque just never fails and this is a big boy at over 4,000 pounds, but it still moves effortlessly because of all that torque. I mean, I'm in normal mode now and if I trounce it-- hello, yeah, we got everything we need. Now that's normal mode. If I put it in sport mode, it's crazy fun. You heard that. I mean this car is just all torque. You've got some body roll because this doesn't have any kind of an active suspension, so you know it still has the tip over a bit. But again there's more weight down low that even fight back. Okay, a RAV4 electric is 50,006 or so. EVs are always putting stealthy and knock off tax credits currently-- that's 10,000 total, federal and California, the only place this guy is sold. So we're down to about 40,000 or so and there really aren't any options to add to go CNET style. Whether or not that price makes sense for you, it's gonna come down to a number of things including whether you think the relatively limited range of a hundred or so and yet the broad utility of a crossover are pulling across purposes, that maybe not be the case depending on how you intend to use the vehicle, but it could be a crux issue.

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