Toyota RAV4 EV rated at 78/74 MPGe by EPA

Toyota RAV4 EVThe numbers are in on the Toyota RAV4 EV, which goes on sale September 24. The EPA rates this EV SUV at 78 MPGe city, 74 MPGe highway, and says it has a 103-mile range.

Since the RAV4 is the only all-electric production SUV currently available, it has no direct competition. Still, its MPGe ratings compare reasonably well with other EVs. The Nissan Leaf is rated at 106 MPGe city, 92 MPGe highway, and has a 73-mile range. While the RAV4 isn’t exactly a Hummer, it is bigger than the Leaf, so a bit of an MPGe deficit is expected.

Beating the Leaf’s range by 30 miles per charge is very impressive, and it matches Toyota’s original claim of a 100-mile range. The battery pack takes six hours to charge on a Level 2 (240v) charging system.

The RAV4 EV may be an SUV, but it will only be offered with front-wheel drive.

Toyota says the RAV4 EV will do 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, or 7.0 seconds in sport mode. The Leaf does it in 9.4 seconds. The RAV4’s fleetness is probably due to its 154 horsepower electric motor; the Leaf only has 107 hp.

That more powerful motor comes courtesy of Tesla Motors, who designed and built the the RAV4 EV’s powertrain. Toyota paid Tesla $60 million for the work, and it will make a good practice run for Tesla’s own electric SUV, the upcoming Model X.

The combination of Tesla and Toyota seems sensible, but it could also mean reliability issues. Tesla is a new company, so its EV technology is relatively untested. Toyota is not a new company, but the RAV4 has been the victim of several recalls in recent months.

The RAV4 EV may be the only electric SUV currently in production, but it is not Toyota’s first attempt at such a vehicle. The Japanese company produced RAV4 EVs from 1997 to 2003 in limited numbers.

The RAV4 EV will go on sale next week, but only in California (Californians won’t miss having all-wheel drive). Toyota originally said it would go on sale during the summer but, like some blockbuster movies, the release date was pushed back to the end of September.

The base price will be $49,800, plus an $810 shipping charge. The RAV4 EV is eligible for a $2,500 California tax rebate and a $7,500 federal tax credit, which should alleivate some sticker shock. It’s also available on a 36-month lease for $599 a month, with a $3,499 down payment.

If you want an electric RAV4, even if it costs as much as a Mercedes, act now. Only 2,600 RAV4 EVs will be built, clearing the way for Model X production to start next year.

Buyers of any environmentally friendly vehicel should always expect to pay a premium for green technology, and the RAV4 EV does make a pretty good case for itself. Plenty of people drive regular SUVs, so why not make one electric?