When it comes to technology, having the latest gadgets makes you look both smart and cool, but does that strategy work with cars? Automakers say that electric vehicles are the future of the industry, but even with many EVs on the market, they may not be the perfect choice for you.
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August new-vehicle sales in the U.S. were up an impressive 17 percent compared to the same month last year, with almost every automaker posting solid gains. But perhaps a bigger surprise has to do with how well plug-in and electric vehicles performed on the market.
The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf initiated a whole new movement in the auto industry. With the realization that an all-electric vehicle can be useful in everyday driving situations thanks to a large battery and more efficient fast charging technology, automakers are hopping on the electric vehicle bandwagon.
“Overall automakers want to be prepared,” says Devin Lindsay, an automotive powertrain analyst from IHS Automotive. “EVs are another tool for automakers to reach out to consumers” he says, mentioning that automakers are taking EVs seriously, rather than just putting a bunch of batteries and motors in an existing product.
It’s interesting to see how automakers make electric cars from the ground up to use only electric propulsion. For example Tesla and Cadillac are all making vehicles that will exclusively be used with an electric powertrain. Others are modifying their current successful vehicles to EVs. Lets take a look at the different EVs that will be arriving soon (or are already here), and learn a bit about the new technology behind it.
The Canadian and Ontario governments both gave Toyota $140 million to jump-start its production capabilities, allowing the company to upgrade its factories in the province. Citizens of Ontario can receive up to $8,500 CAD in incentives to switch to electric, as a way for Ontario to ensure that 1 out of 20 cars will be juiced-up by 2020.
The electric RAV4, which can go 160 miles on a full charge, was shown at the LA Auto Show in November, before Toyota had decided on a final site for production. Many believed that it would be built at the old NUMMI plant, alongside Tesla Motors, but it turns out that the Fremont, California site is all Tesla’s. That company will also be supplying electric components to Toyota—a nice return on investment, seeing as Toyota owns 2.9% of the company.
GALLERY: Toyota RAV4 EV
[Source: CBC News]
The leader in hybrid technology, Toyota will make a big push into further electrifying its fleet when it begins retails sales of the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, as well as two fully electric vehicles, next year. Toyota has confirmed that along with the Prius PHEV, it will begin selling an electric version of the RAV4 compact crossover, as well as a fully-electric version of the Scion iQ mini-car.
Toyota has partnered with Tesla Motors and displayed the RAV4 EV Demonstration Vehicle at the LA Auto Show last year, using the start-up American electric car company’s battery technology. The vehicle weights 220-lbs more than the standard model, but has acceleration on-par with its gasoline counterpart and manages to retain all of the 74 cu-ft of cargo room. Toyota is targeting a 100 mile range.
The second full-EV to hit dealers will be an electric version of the Scion iQ, with a gasoline-powered version arriving later this year. Using lithium-ion batteries under the floor it will retain the 3+1 passenger layout and improve the car’s center of gravity. Toyota is targeting a 65 mile range for this vehicle, designed for inter-city use.
Before those, however, Toyota will take its next step in developing the Prius, releasing the Prius PHEV. With a lithium-ion battery pack it will deliver 12 miles of emissions-free driving before operating more like a conventional hybrid. It isn’t expected to get nearly the same efficiency as the Chevy Volt, but will be priced just slightly higher than the conventional Prius, making it a higher-volume, more mainstream model.
Toyota‘s collaboration with American electric car maker Tesla Motors has been described by many as a publicity stunt, but Toyota’s announcement to build 35 test models with plans for a full production model in 2012 is silencing doubters.
Debuting at the LA Auto Show, the RAV4 EV Demonstration Vehicle looks like an Acura RDX thanks to some funky bodywork. Toyota says its targeting a 100-mile range for the car which is 220-lbs heavier than the standard gasoline model, but can accelerate to 60-mph in roughly the same amount of time.
There’s far more to this project than just swapping out the gas engine for an electric motor and some batteries, however, with Toyota claiming that in order to achieve a similar weight distribution, several major components had to be redesigned. Of note, the EV model retains the factory crossover’s 74 cubic feet or cargo room
Toyota Motor Sales President Jim Lentz, commented in LA that many of the final decisions have yet to be made about the RAV4 EV’s production, including where it will be built. Currently the RAV4 vehicle comes from Toyota’s facility in Woodstock, Ontario while Tesla does its part in Palo Alto, Calif.
And while Toyota rolls out this new electric vehicle concept, it’s not betting on electric cars – or any one type of technology for that matter. In the timeframe it takes to bring the RAV4 EV to market, Toyota will also launch its own electric commuter vehicle, as well as a Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
GALLERY: Toyota RAV4 EV Debut in LA
GALLERY: Toyota RAV4 EV
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Official release after the jump:
Toyota just released this teaser photo the RAV4 EV, but don’t hold your breath for too long. It’s hard to imagine this car looking substantially different than the regular RAV4. The RAV4 EV will make its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next week, no doubt with Elon Musk’s massive self-promotion machine in tow.
Tesla Motors and Toyota have announced that they are working on an all-electric version of the Toyota RAV4. Tesla expects to deliver the prototypes by the end of this year, with the car going on sale in 2012.
Electric vehicle nerds will remember that this isn’t the first time an electric RAV4 has been sold. Toyota offered the RAV4 EV from 1997-2003. 328 RAV4 EVs were leased sold to customers in California, and the cars were destroyed once customers returned them at the end of their lease period. While some managed to survive, Toyota initially did not want to support the vehicles, which were based on the obsolete first-generation RAV4. Hopefully Toyota is better prepared to handle the 2nd generation RAV4 EV, and with a $50 million dollar investment in Tesla, we’d expect that they have some more inclination than the first time around.
Hit the jump to read the official press release