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Toyota unwraps Tesla-powered RAV4 EV

At EVS26, the Electric Vehicle Symposium in Los Angeles this week, Toyota showed off the production version of its RAV4 EV, an electric vehicle built through a partnership with Tesla.

Toyota RAV4 EV
Toyota developed its new RAV4 EV with the help of Tesla.

Toyota showed off its RAV4 EV, the electric version of the RAV4 compact SUV, as a concept about a year and half ago at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. The wraps came off the production version of this new electric car this week, showing some speedy automobile development indeed.

More impressive is that the deal between Toyota and Tesla to develop the electric RAV4, on the heels of Toyota's decision to sell Tesla its NUMMI auto manufacturing plant, came less than two years ago. This is a car with a completely different drivetrain than that of the car on which it is based. Most model updates take longer to put into production.

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The RAV4 EV would be the first electric SUV among the current generation of electric vehicles from major manufacturers. Toyota previously produced a RAV4 EV from 1997 to 2003, making the new version the second generation.

Tesla developed the battery pack and power control electronics for Toyota, a demonstration of its ability to be a tier-one supplier of electric drivetrains. Unlike the relatively long ranges Tesla vehicles have been able to boast, the RAV4 EV will only go about 100 miles on a full charge, according to Toyota. That is in keeping with the range of the Nissan Leaf and upcoming Ford Focus EV.

Toyota gave the RAV4 a sport mode, with higher acceleration and top speed than its standard drive mode. In its standard mode, the RAV4 EV will get to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, with a top speed of 85 mph. Sport mode lifts the top speed to 100 mph and lowers the 60-mph time to 7 seconds.

The RAV4 EV will charge from empty to full in 6 hours from a 240-volt source. Toyota chose Leviton as the supplier of its preferred electric charger, which can be installed in an owner's garage. The car will also include a 110-volt charging cable, but Toyota does not specify the charging time from a 110-volt source.

The RAV4 EV goes on sale in four California metropolitan areas later this summer, at a price of $49,800, before Federal and state tax incentives. Toyota expects to produce 2,600 of the cars over the next three years.