No automaker has done a better job of surrounding itself with a green halo than Toyota. Its Prius model has routinely generated half of all hybrid sales, a number now approaching two-thirds since the introduction of an entirely new Prius “family,” including the big V, compact C and the Prius plug-in.
The latter model was the first from the Japanese maker to opt for state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries, rather than time-tested, if less powerful, nickel-metal hydride batteries. After running into some early development problems, Toyota has been reluctant to go with more advanced lithium – which partially explains why the Asian giant decided to reach outside for help when it laid out plans for its first pure battery-electric vehicle in two decades, the 2012 Toyota RAV4-EV.
The project pairs Toyota with Tesla Motors, the bold California start-up that just introduced its own new battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, the Model S sedan. In fact, they share many of the same underlying components – which is why the 2012 Toyota RAV4-EV is likely to shock those used to the typically slow-as-a-snail battery car.
The new Toyota battery car boasts great performance, and good range and handling – but echoes other recent entries from the Japanese maker by cutting corners on interior fit-and-finish. And the new RAV4-EV introduces what may be the singularly most user-unfriendly infotainment system since the very first BMW iDrive hit the road.