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When the current Toyota RAV4 EV debuted in 2012, most people naturally assumed it was the first electrified RAV4 ever. But electric-vehicle enthusiasts knew better; for them, the new RAV4 EV marked the rebirth of a legend. That's because the first electric RAV4 actually appeared way back in 1997, when the RAV4 itself was in its infancy. Although fewer than 1,500 original RAV4 EVs were produced, they have developed a cult following, with well-preserved examples fetching nearly their original asking price on the used-car market.
Not to rain on the original RAV4 EV's parade (we don't want to electrocute anyone), but the current RAV4 EV is a major improvement. Thanks to a Tesla-engineered powertrain, it's much quicker, and it also offers superior cargo capacity and comparable driving range, all for about the same price as before. In fact, aside from the Tesla Model S, it might be the best all-around electric vehicle on the market today. On the other hand, it's only available in California, and in very limited quantities at that. But hey, that was true of the original, too. Perhaps a new legend has been born.
Used Toyota RAV4 EV Models
The current, second-generation RAV4 EV was introduced for the 2012 model year. There have been no changes to it since.
The first-generation Toyota RAV4 EV was offered in fits and starts from 1997-2003. Based on the original RAV4, it was a four-door crossover with front-wheel drive, just like the current RAV4 EV. Standard features were generous for the period, highlighted by dual airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and air-conditioning. As noted, power was in short supply -- the electric motor made 77 hp, to be precise -- but the relatively compact platform yielded nimble handling and convenient parking characteristics. Maximum driving range was roughly equivalent to that of the current model, while recharging took a comparable seven hours or so.
Fewer than 1,500 first-generation RAV4 EVs were produced, and just a fraction of those are still on the road. If you're interested in finding one to buy, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, every example came with a home charger from the factory, so the charger should be part of the sale; otherwise, you'll need to procure a replacement charger, which could set you back a few thousand bucks. Second, low miles are key for longevity, as the battery pack is thought to be good for about 150,000 miles, and replacement packs are prohibitively expensive for most owners. Finally, equipment changes were minimal during the original RAV4 EV's run, so buy on mileage and condition, not model year.