The 2012 Rav4 EV

One Year On: My Life With the Toyota Rav4 EV Electric Car (Part 3 of 3)

This review is based on my experience driving the electric Rav4 EV for the past year.  It is intended as a primer for those who are learning about electric vehicles (EVs), those considering the switch from gasoline to electric, and those wondering if driving an EV will fit their lifestyle.  This is the last installment in this series.  Links to earlier installments are found below.




Cheaper Cost of Driving Electric versus Gas
The lower daily cost of driving an electric car is not the most important benefit, but it deserves mention.  We used about 330 kWh of electricity to drive 1090 miles in our EV each month.  At 13.3 cents per kWh in our area, that works out to $44 a month, or about 4¢ per mile.  For comparison we paid $88 dollars per month, or 7.2¢ per mile to gas up our Prius, and AAA estimates that the average new car costs about $175 per month, or 15¢ per mile.

Charging an EV at home will increase your electricity bill, but this will be offset by the larger savings from not buying gas.  There will be additional savings since EVs don’t require oil changes, filter changes, etc.  Check with your local utility to learn about time of use plans, electric vehicle rate plans, and tiered rate plans to determine what is available in your area.

The Rav4 EV is more efficient than a Toyota Prius.

The Rav4 EV is more efficient and costs less to drive than a Toyota Prius.

Reduced Carbon Footprint
Burning a gallon of gas releases 19.6 pounds of COinto the atmosphere (US Energy Information Administration).  CO2 is not a weightless gas that disappears into the atmosphere.  The average American driver generates approximately their body weight in carbon dioxide every week by driving a gasoline burning car.  So imagine how much we weigh, how many of us are driving, and ask yourself where does it all go.

Before getting our electric car, we drove a Prius as our main car and a Corolla for days when we each needed a car.  We burned up 408 gallons of gas in the two cars in one year, so our two cars generated more than 8000 pounds of CO2 in one year.  Now we use the Rav4 EV as our main car and the Prius for those days when we both need a car.  The electric car used nearly 4000 kWh of electricity, which in California produces 2440 pounds of CO2 (US EIA), and we burned 94 gallons of gas in the Prius, releasing another 1850 pounds of CO2.  So the EV and Prius combined produced 4290 pounds of CO2 in one year.  By driving an EV we cut our carbon emissions in half (for more information see this report).  

Mining, extraction and transportation of fuels add to those numbers for both gas and electric.  But gasoline doesn’t come ready-made out of the ground.  It is produced from petroleum in refineries through a process that uses a considerable amount of electricity, releasing pollution into the air even before that gasoline is delivered to your gas station.

Reduced Pollution
CO2 is only one pollutant released by burning gasoline: nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and additional hazardous compounds are also released into the air we breath.  Recent evidence suggests a link between air pollution and infant health problems, childhood asthma,  and chronic respiratory disease in adults.  More studies are needed, but we owe it to our children, and ourselves, to reduce pollution everywhere possible.  Electric vehicles are one way to reduce pollution, and not 10 years down the road but today.

The amount of pollution you make charging an electric car depends on the source of energy for generating electricity in your area.  If 100% of the electricity in your area is generated from coal, charging an EV will produce pollution equivalent to driving a car that gets 33 MPG.  But in many parts of the country coal is no longer the main source of electricity, and the proportion of electricity generated by renewable sources is steadily growing each year.  The Union of Concerned Scientists examined this issue throughout the U.S twice.  In 2012 and 2014.  In California charging an electric car produces an amount of pollution that is equivalent to driving a car that gets 95 MPG (See the UCS 2014 report for details).

It’s also important to note that if you buy an electric car the amount of pollution produced to charge your EV will decrease year by year as more renewables are added to the grid, and as utilities reduce emissions at the plant.  In contrast, if you buy a gasoline powered car the amount of pollution you produce is fixed for the lifetime of the car.  Whether or not you believe in global warming, pollution is real.  If you’re not convinced, stand next to a busy freeway, breath deeply, and ask yourself, “Where does all that exhaust go?”

A great way to reduce pollution is by installing solar panels.  Costs have dropped dramatically in recent years and affordable options exist for buying or leasing solar panels.  Up front costs for buying solar are cheaper than buying a car, and leasing options may have no up front costs.  The benefits are huge.  I know EV drivers who installed solar panels and generate enough electricity, right on the roof of their house, to power their home and their electric car.  They’ve become net-zero energy users, and are closing in on true zero emissions.  This is an incredibly powerful and pollution free way to charge cars.  For a great example of driving on sunshine read about the Honda Home in Davis, CA.

Domestic Energy = Independence
The US transportation system relies heavily on oil.  40% of our oil comes from OPEC, 10% from Venezuela, 5% from Russia.  In 2012 the US spent 433 billion dollars importing foreign oil – over a billion dollars every day (1, 2).  It goes without saying that national security issues are at stake.  Every day we send tens of millions of dollars in profits to countries not aligned with our interests.  This isn’t abstract money sent from some governmental department, but money that comes right out of our wallets.  Money that bankrolls projects and activities we should not support.  Knowing this should stimulate efforts to enable the realistic alternatives, like electric cars, that exist right now.  Supplying a greater proportion of our transportation energy needs with domestic energy to power efficient electric vehicles will reduce our reliance on foreign oil, benefit our environment, and produce more jobs here at home.

Driving a silent electric car through wildlife areas does not release pollution into the park.

Driving a silent electric car through wildlife areas does not release pollution into the park.

Zero Emissions
Since I’ve been driving an EV every day I’ve realized many benefits of zero emissions from the tailpipe.  To name only two: when I pull into the garage exhaust fumes don’t follow us into the house; and we can now drive silently through wildlife areas without releasing pollution into the nature reserve. Hopefully charging networks will soon extend to national parks.

A Story of What Could Have Been:
You may not have heard about the Rav4 EV because Toyota does not advertise it in any meaningful way.  No TV, radio, billboard or print ads.  Nothing you’d expect from a company trying to sell a car.  In fact, Toyota recently ran advertisements against the Rav4 EV through it’s Lexus subsidiary.  An amazing strategy: make a car, campaign against it, then announce that nobody wants it.  But this was Toyota’s plan from the start.  The Rav4 EV is a ‘compliance car’ built solely to meet California state law.  Only 2600 will be built, and they are only sold in California.  EV enthusiasts from around the country have bought the Rav4 EV and shipped it to their homes, but Toyota’s position has been that they will not honor warranty service for out-of-state owners.  This is an important issue since warranties are regulated by federal law.

The new Rav4 EV is actually the second version of this car.  Toyota designed and built the first generation Rav4 EV between 1997-2003, also to meet California state law.  When state legislators revised zero emission law in 2003 to ease requirements on auto manufacturers, Toyota, GM, Honda, and Ford crushed their electric cars as quickly as they could.  But as a result of protests, legal action and publicity, more than 300 first generation Rav4 EVs escaped the crusher, and several of those durable first generation Rav4 EVs are still driving around my town 10+ years later.

2002 Toyota Rav4 EV still in service. This particular car is owned by Darrel Dickey. Other notable owners of first generation Rav4 EVs include Tom Hanks.

A 2002 Toyota Rav4 EV still in service. This car is owned by Darell Dickey. Visit his website: for more about the first generation Rav4 EV, other electric cars, and famous people named Tom Hanks who drive the Rav4 EV.

To build the second generation Rav4 EV, Toyota contracted Tesla to supply the battery, motor and electronics.  The Tesla components provide the powerful thrill ride we enjoy, but the new Rav4 EV was put on the market before all the kinks were worked out.  We haven’t had any problems with our Rav4 EV, but others have experienced a range of problems.  The electronic link between Toyota and Tesla components may be an issue.  Toyota handles all service, but in some cases only Tesla service reps have the proprietary knowledge required to fix problems.  This is not surprising given Toyota’s lack of interest and the small number of Rav4 EVs that have been built.  Toyota’s anti-EV stance has turned off many who were originally enthusiastic about the new Rav4 EV.  In contrast, electric cars built by dedicated automakers, think Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, are reliable and have very satisfied and loyal customers.

Toyota recently pronounced the end of the Rav4 EV program.  Toyota claims that EVs are too expensive, are not profitable, and that nobody wants them.  But this is exactly what other automakers said about hybrids when Toyota invested heavily to develop the first generation Prius and initially sold it at a loss.  We know how that story ended: economy of scale brought down manufacturing costs and Toyota dominates the lucrative hybrid market.

After 13,000 trouble free miles I love my electric car more than any I’ve ever driven.  Knowing that it is powered by domestic energy, including 25% from renewable sources like hydroelectric, wind, and solar is a huge plus.  It’s too bad that Toyota made the minimum effort required with the Rav4 EV.  If promoted, the Rav4 EV would serve an important segment of the electric car market.

My next car will definitely be electric and I will buy from a company committed to moving this technology forward.  My advice to you?  If the range of an electric car is greater than your daily commute, buy one.  It works for us and it’ll work for you.  If your driving needs exceed the range of current EVs on the market, there are a number of plug-in hybrid vehicles like the reliable Chevy Volt, that may meet your needs.  There are many resources for learning about the electric cars on the market now, including My Electric Car Forums.  Many people participating in these forums are very knowledgable, drive EVs, and will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

If you missed the earlier installments, click here to read:



 Disclaimer: The author has no financial interest in organizations and companies mentioned in this article.


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  • Michael Thwaite

    “After 13,000 trouble free miles I love my electric car more than any Iu2019ve ever driven.” – You have to hope that Toyota sees this and recognizes this as a conquest sale – this is good stuff Toyota… do more!

    • Mike I

      EVs are mostly conquest sales. Many Leaf owners have never owned Nissan vehicles before and I never seriously considered buying a Toyota before I bought the RAV4 EV. With Toyota’s attitude, I will probably never buy a Toyota again.

      • Greener

        You are correct and I am one of them. I never owned a Nissan before purchasing my LEAF last year. I too will never buy a Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, or Chrysler-Fiat for their anti-EVness. What they are doing (or not doing) with EVs is almost evil.

  • Pingback: One Year On: My Life With the Toyota Rav4 EV Electric Car (Part 2 of 3) - Transport Evolved Electric Car News()

  • Excellent write-up Stephen! Thanks for sharing. And thanks Transport Evolved for this type of well written informative content.

  • darelldd

    So great to see this kind of enthusiasm for the “new” Rav4EV. Really too bad that it couldn’t have been a real “second-generation” of the first car, where all the little quirks were ironed out with input from the first owners. Sadly, this latest car is yet another “version 1.” We’ve had a lot of version 1 EVs… I’m definitely ready for the truly second generation that uses technology and feedback for incremental improvements! Come on Toyota. Time to smell the coffee!nnnThanks for this great article, Stephen. It will help educate many people on the genuine joy of driving electric.

    • nitters

      Hi Darell! A “version 1”, maybe, but a “version 1” by Tesla all the same. Apart from some minor things (the “hickup” after switching between forward and reverse), I didn’t really find any major problems during my 24 hours with the car. OK, 24hrs isn’t enough, but…nnA major drawback is the lack of a fast-charge port. And personally I find it too powerfull (where’s the ECO in that?) but I only touched the “sport” mode button once (you were there ;-).Oh, and it is a little on the big side compared to the “gen 1” as you noted. And the weight makes it relatively inefficient, especially in the hills.nnBut the BIGGEST problem with it is that we can’t get this thing in Europe! I seriously considered taking you up on your offer to buy one for me, and ship it over, but we’d never get it licensed in France!nnTo think that Toyota is to end the RAV4 EV program (yet again) makes me immensly angry!

  • Eric Velasco

    Thank you for the article on your take of the Toyota Rav 4 EV. I Test drove one in SoCal. I enjoyed many aspects of the vehicle and wanted to purchase one. I provided my name and number to the sales associate but to no avail. The Glendale Toyota had a demo car and one up stairs that it was shipping to customer in the east coast of the US. nI decided to purchase the BMW I3 due to Support,Brand,Specs, and Reliability. I noticed that the price of those cars are about the same as the Rav4 EV.nThanks again for the info. nSincerely Eric Velasco

  • Eric Velasco

    Rav-4 EV Demo

  • Greener

    Thank you Stephen for this great series of articles. I enjoyed reading them and I have also shared it with others online. Thank you to Transport Evolved for their channel and commentators for additional info.

  • Pingback: The Week in EVs and More (Part 1) | Earth's Energy()

  • ga

    I’ve got a 2011 Leaf coming off lease next month. It’s been a great car but the battery is too small for a repeat. I was hoping Nissan would have been up to 30kwh by now. It looks like 2017 model will have a redesign. I don’t want to wait so I’m seriously considering picking up a blue Rav4. I’m a bit worried about the problems some people have reported on the list although many, including this author have found no issues with the vehicle. Any comments that people would like to make about the Rav vs Leaf would be welcome.

    • Stephen Noctor

      You can keep track of issues, or ask about them on the Rav4 EV Facebook page. There’s 500+ people there, many of them owners. I’m at 18,000+ now… knock on wood no issues yet. Still lovin it.

      • gill anderson

        Thanks, I’ll check it out. We got a RAV in white. So far 2k miles very nice. The Leaf is more refined but the RAV is more practical because of the size and range. The price was ridiculous. $32k in leasing costs and almost $20k in incentives. I thought of getting another for a spare.

        • Stephen Noctor

          Great. Know what you mean, still trying to talk my better half into getting a second before they’re all gone!

  • foolfighters

    I’m a bit late to the party here, but just wanted to chime in and say that this is one of the best written articles describing the benefits of electric vehicles that I have seen to date. Clearly and succinctly written, easily understandable, and fact-based. Kudos Stephen on a job very well done!

  • rose worthen

    I’m a bit confused with the charging. Our work department has a Rav 4 and we only drive short distances. Does this mean it will not take a full charge because “it is a smart car and has learned our driving habits. The reason I ask is because the range was down to 39. I plugged it in last night, when I got in it this morning the range had not changed. No matter what type of driving you do, shouldn’t charging overnight increase the range to close of the cars range (rav 4 100). That’s like saying you talk on your cell for for 5 minuets each day and thats all the charge it will give you. Help!

    • Stephen Noctor

      If the range didn’t change after being plugged in all night, then I suspect your charger (EVSE to be precise) is not working. More important than range, how many bars are lit up along the left? Each bar represents about 2 kWh or battery storage capacity. With a standard charge you’ll fill up the 16 visible bars. The number of bars should go up as the car charges. If there are less than 16, the battery is not full.

    • gill anderson

      The RAV4EV appears to figure out battery range by history on previous charges. When we got our car, it was at something like 60 miles on a full charge. After a few charges it went up to over 100. Run it down to less than four bars on a few consecutive charges and see if it adjusts. Otherwise 39 miles would be slightly over 1mile/kwh – it’s hard to imagine you’re using that unless the car is being used for deliveries with HVAC running.

  • Dana Williams

    What ever happened to this vehicle? Is it still running strong? I ask because I found one locally and was thinking of buying.. Thanks!

    • neon_glow

      I just bought one with 32000 miles. Loving it.

      • Dana Williams

        On the Mercedes B-Class I understand that there is maintenance associated with the TELSA battery.
        The maintenance is some sort of drying agent that needs to be replaced? Because this vehicle uses a Telsa battery I was wondering if the same would be required.
        BTW what is your best range w/o using that range plus function.


        • neon_glow

          I think the drying agent/canister is specific to the MB. There is a coolant fluid for the Rav4 traction battery. The levels of this and 3 other fluids need periodic checks and topping off. The manual recommends flushing and replacing some of these at specific mileage (40 or 50K).

          My computer estimated range with regular (not extended range) charge is 125-130 miles. That’s without A/C or heater running. Comparing miles actually driven with reduction in estimated range, the estimate seems pretty good, but I haven’t yet push the “tank” to empty to see if I actually get that far. I’ve read that some people do better than the estimate.

          • Dana Williams

            Thanks for the responses there a couple here locally I have an eye on can I live without a fast charger? I’ll have to sort that out..

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