Patty’s 2002 Toyota RAV4 EV
Yes, you can drive an earth-friendly, electric car to work if you live in
the mountains, and you don’t even need to be an electrician to do it. With
a range of over 100 miles per charge, this car has no problem tackling my
forty-mile round-trip Highway 17 commute, even with lunchtime errands or
after work trips. The majority of our driving needs revolve around getting
to work and back every day. Most commutes are less than forty miles
round-trip, so the RAV4 EV (Electric Vehicle) can fit seamlessly into your
The clean, quiet power of this car is a joy. Practical, compact SUV
styling makes it a functional choice for the environmentally conscious
After about four years of use in the rental and government vehicle fleets,
the electric Toyota RAV4 is available for sale to the public. This is part
of the company’s program to comply with the California Air Resources Board
(CARB) mandate. By 2003, ten percent of all new vehicles sold in
California will be required to meet low emissions standards, with two
percent qualified as zero emission vehicles.
On a historical note, while the appearance and capabilities of this
particular car are revolutionary, electric vehicles themselves are not
new. More than 8000 vehicles registered in America in 1900 were electric.1
These were known as “city” vehicles, and were considered to be less
complicated and cleaner than their young internal combustion engine
The RAV4 is a pure electric vehicle, not a hybrid. There are no emissions
(not even a tailpipe), no maintenance, and you “fill up” at night by
plugging it into a home charging station that comes with the car. Hybrids
contain a gasoline engine and an electric motor. Though they are more
efficient than pure gas-powered cars, hybrids still emit pollutants into
the air. The RAV4 EV has an electric motor only.
On a full charge you can run about 117 miles, depending on the terrain.
Some electric vehicle owners make longer trips by planning stops at public
charging stations found in shopping centers and airport parking garages.
The the first thing I addressed in my test drive was how the car would
perform on Highway 17. I planned to use the car for commuting to work. I
took a colleague and the salesperson (a rather large guy). We were easily
able to climb all the way to Summit Road, passing vehicles along the way.
Furthermore, you can make power when going downhill, using the car’s
regenerative braking system. I’d like to see a gas-powered car do that.
The top advertised speed is 78 mph. It’s plenty fast for commuting in this
area. My husband actually calls it “peppy.”
The dashboard is like a “regular car” and the onboard amenities are
similar. You’ll find controls for air conditioning and heat, CD/AM/FM,
power mirrors, windows and door locks, heated seats, timed charge,
pre-cool or pre-heat, anti-lock brakes and dual front airbags. The state
of charge meter shows you how much charge is left in the battery pack. It
replaces the gas gauge. An additional gauge shows the momentary draw on
Several tiers of warnings tell you when you’re running low on battery
Unlike some electric vehicles, this car has room for five passengers, plus
cargo space in the back. My dog especially likes the cargo area for trips
to the beach.
The RAV4 EV has 24 factory sealed 12-volt rechargeable nickel metal
hydride batteries (recyclable) used to propel the car and an additional 12
-volt lead acid battery for accessories (heating, air conditioning, CD
player and radio, etc.). The batteries should last 100,000 miles.
Charging is relatively inexpensive. You charge it at night, at home, when
the electric rates are at their cheapest, around 5 to 8 cents per kwh. It
takes six to seven hours to charge it fully. You can drive up to 117 miles
on one charge. The cost to drive it is 3 to 3.5 cents per mile, compared
with some SUVs, which can cost as much as 8 or 9 cents per mile.
The RAV4 has a sale price of approximately $42,000, but after rebates and
tax credits, the actual cost is about $30,000. This includes the home
charging station, which you pay to have installed. Incentives are also
available for employers who have EV charging installed at the workplace.
In addition, Senate Bill 1782 mandates that the registration fees
collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles will be based on a more
affordable equivalent gas-powered car, not on the temporarily high cost of
this new technology.
If you buy the vehicle (as opposed to leasing it) you can get an
additional $3000 tax credit. Here’s another plus. You can drive a zero
emissions vehicle alone in the carpool lane. Other benefits include free
public charging at places like Costco and Fry’s and free parking in many
municipalities. There is a new charging station in the Santa Cruz Front
Street parking garage where you can also charge up for free.
More information on this car and public charging infrastructure is
available on the RAV4 EV Web site (http://rav4ev.toyota.com) or the
Electric Auto Association at (http://eaaev.org/). To learn about the
rebate program, visit www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/zevprog/zip/zip.htm.
1 McDowell, Donald and Kenneth. When R.E. Olds Chased After Strange
Electric Gods. http://www.ausbcomp.com/~bbott/cars/oldselec.htm