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First Drive: Toyota RAV4-EV

Toyota plugs in with first battery-electric vehicle.

by on Apr.11, 2011

A first drive in a Toyota RAV4-EV prototype.

The all-electric RAV4 isn’t officially due to plug into the U.S. market until the 2012 calendar-year but recently Toyota gave us a chance to take a spin in one of the 31 prototypes built by its partner, the California-based battery car start-up, Tesla Motors.

Toyota was the first automaker to produce a hybrid-electric vehicle – though rival Honda beat it to the U.S. market by several months.  Until recently, Toyota dismissed more advanced plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, so the decision to launch the RAV4-EV was a significant shift in strategy.  So was the decision to turn to Tesla.

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While alliances have become the norm in the automotive world, Toyota has traditionally preferred going it alone, so the RAV4-EV will be a significant addition to the Japanese giant’s line-up in a variety of ways.

We headed to Southern California for our first drive, where Toyota had one of the battery cars fully charged and ready to go, to get a sense of what we can expect when the maker’s first pure electric vehicle comes to market in little more than a year.