Toyota is pulling the plug on the RAV4-EV, the battery-electric version of the soft-roader it introduced two years ago with the help of electric vehicle start-up Tesla Motors.
This year’s phase-out of the RAV4-EV comes as the Japanese giant gets ready to launch its new hydrogen-powered FCV, which made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show last autumn. While it has been the most successful manufacturer of conventional hybrids, Toyota has repeatedly expressed its concerns about pure battery-electric vehicles relying on advanced lithium-ion batteries.
The move also comes as Tesla gets ready to launch its own, first battery-electric SUV, the Model X due to market sometime in 2015.
Though Toyota makes it sound like it simply decided to let the RAV4-EV program run its natural, limited course, there could be other factors at work. Tesla, for example, has been struggling to get enough batteries to meet projected future demand. Founder and CEO Musk recently unveiled his so-called Gigafactory project, designed to be the world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant when it gets into production by decade’s end.
As for Toyota, the maker has been openly skeptical about the potential of lithium-ion power, even running a recent ad that focused on the limitations of battery technology. Notably, it has stuck with more time-tested – if less powerful – nickel-metal hydride batteries for its familiar hybrid models, such as the segment-leading Prius line.