Toyota’s stance on electric vehicles seems to be clear, so the end of the Toyota RAV4 EV doesn’t really come as a shock.
Instead, Toyota is focusing on its hybrid electric vehicle and hydrogen fuel cell technology, clearly seen even in its marketing. True, hybrids are a great interim step, but I don’t think they’ll lead for long. Unfortunately, Toyota’s stance leaves the future of its sole pure electric vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, without a powertrain. The Toyota RAV4 EV, on the outside, looks like any other RAV4, plus some electric blue accenting, minus fuel filler door and tailpipe. Under the skin, however, the RAV4 EV sports a lithium-ion battery pack and powertrain jointly developed by Toyota and Tesla Motors.
The Toyota RAV4 EV hasn’t seen much success outside of California, where it is sold basically as CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) fodder, the sole ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) in Toyota’s lineup. Otherwise, Toyota wouldn’t be allowed to sell the rest of their cars in California, the nation’s largest automobile market. Additionally, Toyota would have to buy ZEV credits, affecting their bottom line. Interestingly, because the battery and powertrain supplier, Tesla Motors, produces only ZEVs, that company has made a profit off other automakers’ failure to develop them.
Unfortunately for the Toyota RAV4 EV, the Tesla Motors battery and powertrain contract runs out at the end of the year. Tesla Motors says it won’t be looking to renew, and Toyota don’t seem all that interested in renewing it, either. So, this seems like the end of the line for the Toyota RAV4 EV, but we know that, to satisfy the CAFE and ZEV requirements in California, Toyota will have to produce another ZEV in order to avoid penalty. Does this mean that the Toyota FCV hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicle is ready for prime time?