High Expectations for Toyota’s Plug-In Electric RAV4 Prime

Electrified vehicles notched another milestone last month when, for the first time, sales of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid outpaced sales of the less-expensive standard (and non-electrified) RAV4. The count was close, but consumers purchased 17,051 hybrids and 17,042 non-hybrids. This high level of interest bodes well for the new all-wheel-drive RAV4 Prime that is launching nationwide this summer.

The RAV4 Prime differs from the hybrid primarily because the Prime is a plug-in electric vehicle. The Prime’s $38,100 base MSRP is about $10,000 more than the standard RAV4, but the Prime is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and many states offer additional incentives.

The reason to be optimistic about the RAV4 Prime plug-in is that the RAV4 Hybrid is selling so well compared to the standard when the hybrid offers only marginal improvements. For example, the standard RAV4 has 203 hp and the hybrid has 219 hp, while the plug-in Prime has 302 hp. And the hybrid’s hwy/local/combined mileage of 41/38/40 is better than the standard’s 27/34/30, but neither come close to the plug-in Prime’s 94 miles per gallon equivalent.

Given the small price difference (after the federal tax credit and other incentives), performance and fuel savings make the Prime a virtual no-brainer. The 0-60 acceleration in 5.7 seconds makes the RAV4 Prime the quickest four-door model in the entire Toyota lineup. And while the mileage described above is outstanding by any measure, many drivers will hardly ever have to fill up the gas tank anyway because the Prime’s 18.1 kWh battery powers the vehicle for about 42 miles without using an ounce of gasoline. And there’s no need to worry about the battery, because it’s covered under a 10-year/150,000 mile warranty that is transferrable across ownership.

The RAV4 Prime is available in two trim lines, the SE and the XSE, both of which are AWD and can tow up to 2,500 lbs. Other than typical differences between versions such as infotainment systems, the SE is equipped with a 3.3 kW charger and the XSE has the option for a 6.6 kW charger. Both are the standard J1772 universal “Level 2” 240V connector, but the 3.3 kW (240V/16 amp) version charges at a rate of a little less than 10 miles in an hour while the 6.6 kW (240V/32 amp) version charges a bit faster than 15 miles in an hour. Both charge at the same speed of about 3.5 miles per hour when plugged in to a standard 120V (12 amp) outlet.

Unlike many other major automakers, Toyota remains focused on hybrids (plug-in as well as non-plug-in) as compared to fully electric vehicles. But if recent sales are an indication of future trends, the RAV4 Prime may accelerate the company’s electrification plans.

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