Guest Post: Celebrating National Drive Electric Week in a 2012 Toyota Rav4 EV Electric Car

In case you hadn’t heard, this week is National Drive Electric Week, a week-long celebration across North America intended to educate and celebrate the joys of dumping the pump for a plug-in car instead. With events running right up until Sunday evening, there’s still time to get involved with a local event in your area, or perhaps just make sure you share the joys of driving electric with someone in your office, family, or circle of friends. 

We’ve heard from lots of plug-in drivers this week, but regular guest writer Stephen Noctor decided to celebrate National Drive Electric Week in a very simple, yet effective way: a nice, long family road trip. Read on to hear about his family’s wonderful adventure with their reliable 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV.

This year we celebrated the National Drive Electric Week by taking our electric car on a road trip.  We drove our 2012 Toyota Rav4 EV on a camping trip with friends to Bodega Bay on the California coast.  What better way to celebrate this national event than by using domestic energy to power our trip?  We’ve driven over 17,000 miles in our electric car since we bought it last year.  It is our primary vehicle and we absolutely love this car.  The Rav4 EV is roomy and the large storage area behind the rear seats easily fit our tent, sleeping bags, 2 coolers, a 10×10′ sun shade, firewood, food, some important drinks, and more clothes and things than we’d really need for a weekend trip.  The passenger compartment comfortably seats our family of 4, with plenty of room to store snacks, knick-knacks, and games to keep the kids occupied.

Everything we need for a weekend camping trip easily fits in our electric car. The kids are all strapped in and ready to go!

Everything we need for a weekend camping trip easily fits in our electric car. The kids are all strapped in and ready to go!

The campground we choose was about 95 miles from our town, a distance we knew we’d easily make since we’ve driven over 150 miles on single charge in our electric car.  As a bonus, the campground was in a state park that has a public Level 2 charger so we could charge up for the trip home.  We used the website to plan our route and noted that there were 26 Level 2 public charging stations along the route.  Level 2 stations charge at approximately 20 miles an hour.  There were also six Level 3 stations along the route.  Level 3 quick charging stations charge EVs much faster, but Toyota did not include a quick charge port on the Rav4 EV so we couldn’t use them for this year’s trip*.

Our route took us along major highways, country roads and through California’s coastal mountains.  In other words normal driving.  It was 100 degrees when we left home so we used AC the whole trip.  In addition, we got stuck in traffic along the way and had to detour from our planned route because of a traffic accident.  This added about 15 miles and nearly an hour of driving time to our trip.  But the Rav4 EV has the range for the job at hand.  We arrived at the campground after driving 112 miles miles with about 10 kWh remaining in the battery pack – enough to drive another 30 to 40 miles.  Other EVs with the CHAdeMO quick charge port could also make this trip by including a 20 minute stop to use one of the Level 3 charging stations along the route.

Route2 has a trip planning feature that allows you to plot your route (indicated in blue) and shows you charging stations located along your route. Green icons indicate Level 2 charging stations, orange icons indicate Level 3 quick charging stations. We drove 112 miles to get to the campground and had about 10 kWh remaining in the battery pack – enough to drive another 40 miles.

Our route to Bodega Bay passed through beautiful wine country in Sonoma and Napa valleys.  California may be ahead of some states in the number of public charging stations that have been installed.  But, one thing we saw on our road trip you will see just about anywhere you drive: infrastructure.  The powerlines that course along most roads deliver electricity to your home, place of work, shops, restaurants and anywhere else you might go.  This infrastructure is already here.  It is waiting to be used for charging EVs.  Today.


Napa Valley. Electric power lines course along most roads throughout the country. This existing infrastructure is ready and waiting to be tapped by electric vehicles. Today.

With the exception of the Tesla Model S and Roadster, most pure electric cars on the market today have been designed as commuter cars that have 80 to 100 miles of driving range per charge. These EVs are excellent for their task.  The Rav4 EV’s larger battery pack and larger storage area provide more options for the EV market, and make weekend trips like this possible.  We did not have to stop at any chargers along the way and our children had a blast at the campground and on the beach.  Trips in our electric car have become a normal part of their lives.

We enjoyed beautiful September weather. A sunny 75 degrees, but you'll think twice about swimming in the 55 degree water.

We enjoyed beautiful September weather: sunny and 75 degrees – but you’ll think twice before swimming in the 55 degree water.

This trip was made possible by public charging infrastructure.  Sonoma County installed a ChargePoint charging station right on the beach.  This allowed us to fully charge our car at the campground so we wouldn’t have to stop on our way home.  It should be noted though, that many RV campgrounds have hookups that electric cars can use for charging.  Intrepid travelers have already shown that you can use this approach to travel through parts of the country that lack public EV charging infrastructure.  Several companies sell the adapters you need to plug into an RV electric hookup to charge your car.

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Charging before sunrise at Bodega Bay. Sonoma County installed a ChargePoint charger in the park and allows 4 hours of charging time per car. This great resource is well used. During our time at the park we saw Nissan Leafs, a Chevy Volt and a Model S charging at the station.

As I’ve said before, I love this car more than any I’ve ever driven and would recommend it to anyone.  The Rav4 EV provides the range, space, and utility that make it a great electric car.  Our trip was nothing extraordinary in this day and age when Model S EVs can drive up and down the coast and across the country. But this trip is an example of the routine trips you can make with an EV today.  Unfortunately, from day one Toyota planned to produce only 2600 Rav4 EVs to meet California requirements, and sad to say, Rav4 EV production has come to an end.  Only 200 or 300 remain to be sold.  For those who are interested, a tight-knit group of knowledgable Rav4 EV drivers post useful information on the MyRav4EV forum, and also on Facebook.  It’s a shame that Toyota has walked away from this project but hopefully other companies will step in to fill the void and provide the market with more EV options.

*A CHAdeMO port for the Rav4 EV is coming soon. Visit Quick Charge Power for more info.

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


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