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."
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller.
Beth, I agree that no combination of bells and whistles will induce droves of customers to spend $50K on a RAV4, and Toyota clearly knows that. That said, I respect Toyota for taking the approach they're taking here. Their Prius will have more far, far more impact on the environment than the limited number of pure electric cars that are going to be sold. From the beginning, Toyota has been very open about its beliefs on pure electrics. The late, great Dave Hermance (known as "the American father of the Prius"), was a huge proponent of green powertrain technology, and he wasn't a believer in pure electrics. And not much has changed since he made his pronouncements.
Beth Stackpole; Toyota definitely seems to be targeting 'high-end' consumers. Also, I think all of the production is allocated to the California market, vs. national market. I remember looking at the Prius when they all had multi-disk CD changers, rear cameras, DVD entertainment systems, and Navigation systems. My wife now drives a 2010 Prius without all these upscale features, because 'stripped-down' versions are now available, and much less expensive. Once Toyota sees what the market actually is, they may offer a less expensive, less decked-out version.
I applaud Toyota's efforts to explore a multitude of alternative technologies. However, the problem I see with this introduction is no one is going to plunk down $49K for RAV4. That brand is viewed as more of a low-end, perhaps mid-range vehicle for those who like small, sporty packages. No collaboration with luxury EV maker Tesla or any combination of bells and whistles are going to change that perspective, I wouldn't think.
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