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A recent engagement in California’s Napa and Sonoma Valley placed us in the driver’s seat at Toyota’s  first ever “Eco-Driven with Toyota & Friends” event, select media not only test drive the full hybrid line-up of  Toyota vehicles, but also immersed attendees in a three day program that brought together partners and personalities – including  skateboarder and eco-activist Bob Burnquist, Top Chef Mary Sue Milliken, and other brand partners who shared their missions around eco aware products and services.

But the heart of our experience in the Napa Valley with Toyota surrounded our test drive of the  all new 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV – the first all-electric version of the popular Toyota SUV vehicle built in collaboration with Tesla Motors.

Photography: Selectism.com

The all-electric Toyota RAV4 EV was developed in collaboration with Tesla Motors as pushed personally by Toyota Motor Corporation president and CEO, Akio Toyoda. Together over the course of a short 22 month timetable, they combined the Tesla battery and electric drivetrain with Toyota’s RAV4 SUV for a compelling vehicle that delivers EPA-estimated driving range rating of approximately 92 – 113 miles (depending on charge mode) – the longest of any non-luxury electric vehicle. Through home and remote charging stations the Toyota RAV4 EV pulls a full charge in around 6 hours.

Back to those charge modes: the Toyata RAV4 EV features standard and extended charging. In standard mode, 35 kWh are run through the vehicle to hit an EPA-estimated driving range rating of 92 miles. Extended charge mode, which juices the battery to a full capacity of 41.8 KWh earns a gain of 21 extra miles – 113 in total. But the advantage of the standard mode of charging is performance over the life of the battery’s life.

Regenerative braking in the Toyota RAV4 EV – also collaboratively designed by Tesla and Toyta uses the vehicle captures kinetic energy loss and converts it to electric energy for up to a 20 percent increase in driving range.

Toyota’s Eco drive indicator, originally delivered back in 2006, gives performance feedback including “driving range, trip efficiency, efficiency, ECO coach, CO2 reduction and AUX power.” For most, the indicator keeps the driver conscious not only of their energy output but helps keep the motorist aware of the engine’s sweet spot. For this driver, it is an indicator of when to push the vehicle and when to keep it within the bounds of efficiency. Again, we’re looking at a max range of just around 100 miles.

On the roads of Napa and Sonoma Valley, the Toyota RAV4 EV performed equal to the traditional base SUV model – if only much more silent. The ride in the Toyota RAV4 EV was a smooth one and comfortable from all side. At times, I drove shotgun to my friends at GP who gave the vehicle an even stronger kick. While the limitation may be on the distance between charges, the drive and ride of the vehicle feels no impact and the battery’s thermal management system assists in this.

In the Napa Valley, where temperatures range from blaring heat to cool evenings, the thermal management system proves its value. During our stay, the daytime sun makes it difficult to stay unshaded in the open. Toyota’s unique Remote Climate Control system allows drivers to pre-cool or pre-heat the vehicle prior to driving while the vehicle is plugged-in which conserves the driving range of the RAV4 EV.

Price wise, the Toyota RAV4 EV delivers at $49,800. “The RAV4 EV is expected to qualify for a $2,500 rebate through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program in California and also is eligible for a $7,500 Federal Tax Credit.” A nice little return for being conscious of your footprint on the environment.

We thank the folks at Toyota for the opportunity to test drive their new RAV4 EV in California where the climate does play a role. Our ability to run the vehicle through the conditions while taking in the scenes of the small town are well appreciated.

We would also like to thank Toyota’s partners at the Eco-Driven with Toyota & Friends experience including yogitoes, Aveda, and Threads of Thought clothing – all three companies are working to deliver eco-friendly and sustainable products that decrease the environmental impact of production and use.




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