Toyota Electrifies America’s Top-Selling Family Vehicle, the RAV4, For 2020

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The new RAV4 will have a plug. Why this electric vehicle may be the best value in all of the crossover world.

The Toyota RAV4 is America’s top-selling crossover, top-selling family vehicle, and the RAV4 Hybrid America’s top-selling affordable green vehicle. Can all those buyers be wrong? Based on our testing they are not. The RAV4 in its newest generation checks all the boxes – almost. It is affordable. It starts around $27K, and a well-equipped AWD model will cost buyers around $30K. The 40 MPG RAV4 Hybrid AWD starts at about $30K and is well-equipped at about $35K. The RAV4 is also among the very safest vehicles in the American market, having earned the highest honor available from a testing institute, the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus award. Like every Toyota, the RAV4 has earned a reputation for durability, reliability, and overall quality. It even comes with two years of included maintenance at no extra charge. So what has been missing? A plug.

Toyota was putting electric RAV4s in driveways six years before Tesla was founded. The first one in the U.S. market appeared in 1997. Like most early EVs, it was focused on sales within the Californian market. The second-generation RAV4 EV was produced in 2012. This time in collaboration with Tesla. Both generations were low-volume relative to the market overall. Toyota’s coming third-generation electric RAV4 will likely outsell the prior two generations within its first few months of availability.

Unlike the first two RAV4 EVs, the 2021 RAV4 will be a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or PHEV. The earlier two used only an electric battery. America has never seen a successful affordable fully-electric model. Nor has it ever seen a high-volume electric crossover of any style. The new RAV4 PHEV could be much more successful in terms of sales – and quickly. Toyota announced the new RAV4 PHEV this past week and plans to show it off at the coming LA Auto Show in November. Expect to see it in driveways mid-summer of 2020.

Toyota has not released any details about the RAV4 PHEV, but we do know quite a bit about the RAV4 hybrid on which it is based. We suspect that the 2021 RAV4 PHEV will have an electric-only range of about 25 miles. After which, it will revert to operating as a 40 MPG hybrid. That’s the beauty of plug-in hybrid EVs. They can get you to work or around town to do your chores using only electricity one day, and the next they can be driven hundreds of miles to a distant location without ever having to be recharged. For example, the Toyota Prius PHEV has a 640-mile range. Overall, we would expect this new RAV4 PHEV to earn a 75 MPGe rating from the EPA and we also expect it will be an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

The extra cost of the larger battery will mean the RAV4 PHEV will have a higher sticker price than the RAV4 hybrid, but there’s a catch. As an EV, the RAV4 PHEV will come with a federal tax deduction of either $7,500 or $4,500, depending upon how large its battery is. Most EV-target states like California and those in the Northeast will also have state and local rebates to help make the RAV4 PHEV affordable. Possibly more affordable than the equally-equipped RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Limited.

If an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid crossover you can afford sounds like a winning formula to you, but with winter coming you cannot wait, there is good news. Mitsubishi has been making its Outlander PHEV for a couple of years now. Imagine; two all-wheel-drive affordable electric crossovers from which to choose. The EV world is starting to hit much closer to home.

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John Goreham

John Goreham

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