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Toyota introduces an electric RAV4, again

Adriene Hill May 7, 2012

Toyota introduces an electric RAV4, again

Adriene Hill May 7, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: You know, we all love to complain about high gas prices. So far, though, not a whole lot of us are putting our money where our mouths are and actually buying cars that don’t need gas.

Electric vehicle sales have been slow, but that’s not stopping auto makers from introducing new choices. Today, Toyota unveiled the much anticipated RAV4 EV.

Marketplace’s Adriene Hill reports.

Adriene Hill: Expectations were high for Toyota’s new electric RAV4. The company partnered with high-end electric car maker Tesla. And today’s roll out with Toyota U.S.A. General Manager Bob Carter, it was all show and superlatives.

Bob Carter: Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you our all new Rav4 EV.

So you might expect the press person for Toyota to be equally gaga. You’d be surprised.

John Hanson: There really isn’t a strong economic reason to purchase these vehicles right now.

John Hanson is communications manager for Toyota. The RAV4 EV will cost just about $50,000 — more the twice the cost of the RAV4 that uses gas.

Hanson: It’ll be a vehicle that requires five or six hours of charging time.

All together, says Hanson:

Hanson: That is a situation that we think will appeal to a fairly limited number of consumers.

Whoa. Why the soft-soft sell? Hanson says Toyota’s just trying to get a sense of how many people might want these cars and what the market might be.

Mike VanNieuwkuyk from J.D. Power says there are a couple reasons to keep expectations low.

Mike VanNieuwkuyk: The biggest barrier is going to remain that price, the cost to invest in electric vehicles is considerable higher than what you pay for a comparable vehicle in that same class.

Plus he says, drivers have “range anxiety” about how far the cars can go without charge. And newer, higher m.p.g. cars pose their own form of competition.

VanNieuwkuyk: That allows me to do a little better today, and I’ll wait, I’ll wait for the electric vehicles to do a little better in the industry.

Toyota expects to sell only 2,600 RAV4 EVs over the next three years, but thinks the market is there and will grow along with technology.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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