Yesterday afternoon, Toyota announced an official recall of its limited-production Toyota RAV4 EV electric SUVs to fix a software programming issue that could result in a loss of motive power, increasing the risk of a crash.
The recall, believed to affect around 2,600 model-year 2012-2014 RAV4 EVs, coincided with a much larger recall of approximately 110,000 Model Year 2015 Toyota Camry, Camry Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid and 2014-2015 Model Year RAV4 vehicles, but is distinct and separate from the much larger recall.
As Toyota’s official press release details, affected Toyota RAV4 EV vehicles may suddenly shift into neutral while driving, resulting in a loss of power to the drive wheels and triggering a “Check EV System” warning message on the vehicle’s digital instrument panel.
The root cause of the problem is believed to be a selection of components in the vehicle’s Electric Vehicle Traction Motor Assembly, which could cause the vehicle to shift into neutral while being driven due to a software issue. Toyota has not given any specifics, but from what it has written we infer that perhaps incorrect signals are being sent to the car’s power electronics, causing a safety system within the car’s software to shift into neutral, triggering a series of error conditions to be set.
In that situation, the car can be suddenly left without motive power, increasing the risk of injury or accident.
Toyota notes however that no injuries, crashes, or fatalities are believed to have occurred as a result of this fault.
The Toyota RAV4 EV was made by Toyota between 2012 and 2014 as a so-called ‘compliance car’ — a zero-emissions vehicle specifically to satisfy ZEV mandates in states like California which requires automakers to produce and sell a specific percentage of zero-emission vehicles in order to sell other vehicles within the state.
It followed in the tire tracks of Toyota’s first-generation RAV4 EV, which was produced by the Japanese automaker to satisfy similar zero-emission mandates around the world between 1997 and 2003, but instead of using a Toyota’ engineered drivetrain and battery pack as it did in the first-generation model, Toyota farmed out powertrain and battery pack development to Californian automaker Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA].
As a consequence, the 2012-2104 Toyota RAV4 EV gives an enjoyable and torquey ride, even if its performance is nowhere near Tesla Model S levels, while its large 41.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack yields an EPA-approved range of 92 miles per charge in standard mode and 113 miles per charge in ‘extended’ mode.
It’s not clear from the recall if the problem is caused by Tesla-manufactured components.
Toyota says owners of affected vehicles will receive a notification of the recall via first-class mail, and their local approved Toyota EV specialist will repair the electric vehicle traction motor assembly as required free of charge.
In the meantime, concerned owners may call Toyota’s Customer Service centre toll-free on 1-800-331-4331, or visit Toyota’s recall website for more information.
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