The primary-generation Toyota RAV4 arrived in the marketplace initially of the compact crossover increase. Whereas nearly all first-generation fashions had 4 cylinders underneath the hood, there have been exceptions. When you had been lucky sufficient to dwell within the Folks’s Republic of California, you may pony up for the electrical model and present all of your neighbors how conscientious you had been. However that’s solely a part of the story.
The rise and fall of the RAV4 EV is an attention-grabbing historic apart, as a result of it reveals you precisely what company treachery can do.
Toyota’s concept was pretty easy, a minimum of to start with: Develop an EV on the market in California to profit from a MOA (memorandum of understanding) with the California Air Assets Board. The RAV4 EV grew to become obtainable again in 1997, however solely through a fleet lease with a time period of three years. Toyota didn’t develop the RAV4 EV with the intent of public sale.
This modified in 2001, when Toyota modified the leasing settlement, making the EV obtainable to small enterprise homeowners as a “fleet of 1.”
Enterprise lessees loved the electrical RAV4’s EPA gasoline-equivalent score of 125 metropolis, 100 freeway. Prime pace is restricted to 85 miles per hour, with a driving vary of 95 miles (bear in mind, that is ’90s know-how).
The following 12 months, Toyota flipped the coverage as soon as extra, declaring small variety of RAV4 EVs can be obtainable for buy by California customers. The explanation behind Toyota’s change of coronary heart is a minor thriller, because the extent of the leasing program had already happy CARB’s necessities underneath the settlement.
A complete of 328 RAV4 EVs had been bought on to customers all through 2002 and into 2003. Its base worth of $42,000 was made extra tempting by California authorities grants of $9,000 and an IRS tax credit score of $four,000. Mixed, these introduced the worth all the way down to a extra affordable $29,000, which included an in-home charging unit.
Whole manufacturing figures for the RAV4 EV come to 1,484 items. Leased examples had been re-sold to their unique lessees, or distributed by sellers as used autos. However blissful purchasers didn’t make sure the continuance of the RAV4 EV, as its destiny had already been decided. Time for a brief story.
The RAV4 EV used a patented NiMH EV-95 battery. The exact same (glorious, dependable) battery was present in GM’s EV pilot program within the early 1990s. Keep in mind the EV-1?
GM bought the patent from the unique inventor in 1994 through a subsidiary (GM Ovonics), underneath the guise of use within the EV-1 automobile. In 2001, Texaco bought a controlling curiosity in GM Ovonics. Inside months of this buy, Texaco filed a patent infringement swimsuit in opposition to Toyota’s battery provider, Panasonic, profitable a settlement of $30,000,000. Later in 2001, Chevron would ink a deal for a merger with Texaco within the quantity of $100 billion. Now, ChevronTexaco held the veto energy for licensing of the EV batteries.
In 2003, ChevronTexaco did slightly rebranding, and turned the joint battery manufacturing enterprise between Texaco and Ovonics (which made battery techniques) into Cobasys. As patent holder over the batteries, ChevronTexaco retained a proper to grab all Cobasys’ mental property rights within the occasion that Ovonics didn’t fulfill contractual obligations. In the meantime, although the NiMH batteries had been commercially viable, Cobasys would solely settle for orders for over 10,000 items, successfully shutting out any particular person or small-scale improvement of EV autos.
The web impact right here prevented Toyota from ordering extra batteries for its small fleet of RAV4 EVs (and killed different EV alternatives), and that’s why it’s useless. The clear instance of pre-treachery EV you see right here is on the market in Florida for $four,850.
[Images via eBay]