The new vehicle is the first battery-electric car that Toyota has produced since that time.
It did not say how much its new lithium-ion battery will cost, but Hartline indicated that the earlier projection of $1,000/kWh by its engineers still isn't far off. "That's the benchmark we've always used," she said. "Battery chemistry has improved, but even with a lot of research and a lot of resources, the cost hasn't come down that much."
If the price of the RAV4 EV is an indicator, the cost of batteries may not have dropped much from Toyota's earlier projection. At $49,800, the new vehicle costs about $15,000 more than a Nissan Leaf and $10,000 more than a Chevy Volt, both of which employ considerably smaller battery packs. (The Volt's battery is 16 kWh; the Leaf's is 24 kWh.)
Critics have complained about the price of the new vehicle. Forbes.com called it "stratospherically priced," and a Wall Street Journal reviewer wrote, "Sure, lithium-ion batteries are expensive, but prices are falling and, well, I just don't see where the expense lies."
Toyota says that it is accurately targeting a small cadre of customers who are hooked on the idea of an electric powertrain. The new vehicle offers a multitude of luxury features, including LED projector headlights, LED running lights, variable front seat heaters, navigation, telematics, and a capacitive touch screen, along with the all-electric drive system.
"It feels luxurious," Hartline said. "It's a niche vehicle for sophisticated early adopters."