Toyota sparks up in California

Toyota RAV4 EV
Toyota RAV4 EV

Toyota is expanding its Prius-built alternative fuel empire - but the latest vehicle in its range is only going to be sold in California.

The Japanese automotive giant unveiled an all-electric version of its RAV4 crossover at an EV symposium in Los Angeles this week.

It claims the plug-in will be capable of 160km on a single charge, and is confident that the environmentally aware people of California will snap up 2600 RAV4 EVs over the next three years.

But it is more than twice the price of its petrol version, at a staggering US$49800 (NZ$63,380).

Fully electric vehicles like Toyota's plug-in Prius, Nissan's Leaf and Tesla's Roadster and Model S have proven popular in the state of California, well known for its iron-fisted emissions laws.

Tesla was the provider for the battery technology for the RAV4 EV, which Toyota wanted to perform at the same level as its V6 version.

"We believe the RAV4 EV will fit the specific needs of sophisticated, early technology adopters, much like the first generation Prius buyers," said Bob Carter, Toyota USA's vice president.

"Tesla's high performance battery and powertrain meets the style, cargo capacity and performance of the RAV4 V6. In fact, it will be the only all-electric SUV on the market.

"The 41.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack can smoothly and quietly take you from 0-60 [100km/h] in seven seconds," said Carter.

Meanwhile, Tesla said its first-quarter loss widened to US$89.9 million ($114.2 million) before the release of a new model.

Tesla said it is advancing Model S sedan deliveries to June, rather than July, and that it has more than 10,000 orders for the battery-powered vehicle. It is also planning a Model X sport-utility vehicle in 2013.

The Model S, with a range of as much as 483km a charge, depending on the battery pack purchased, should expand Tesla's sales volume to at least 20,000 cars, Musk said. The car's US$57,400 base price, before a US$7,500 tax credit, is half that of the Roadster, which Tesla has sold since 2008.

- NZ Herald

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