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Toyota does electrification backward, unveils RAV4 PHEV when it used to have all-electric version

Toyota has unveiled a new plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the RAV4 for 2021 — showing that it is doing electrification backward, since it used to have an all-electric RAV4 SUV more than a decade ago.

The Japanese automaker was early to the hybrid game with the Prius, but where most automakers moved to plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, the Japanese automaker stuck to hybrids and instead bet on hydrogen for electric vehicles.

At one point, Toyota invested in Tesla and was working with the electric startup to produce an all-electric version of the RAV4 SUV.

There were talks to expand the partnership, but ultimately, Toyota mainly used Tesla to help them comply with regulations in California, the only market where the all-electric version of the RAV4 was offered.

They ended up killing the program in 2014 after making only about 2,500 all-electric RAV4s, and in 2017, Toyota completely divested from Tesla.

Five years after stopping production of the RAV4 EV, Toyota has now announced that it is bringing a RAV4 PHEV to market in 2021.

The Japanese automaker released this picture:

They didn’t announce any specs for the RAV4 PHEV, but they wrote in a press release that it will be the most powerful RAV4 yet:

Toyota teased today what will become the most powerful RAV4 yet — the 2021 RAV4 plug-in hybrid. Bringing with it a new color, Supersonic Red, the teaser image of the RAV4 plug-in hybrid highlights the new plug-in hybrid vehicle’s (PHV) surprising performance capabilities. Unlike any other, the new RAV4 plug-in hybrid will be celebrated by its spirited acceleration, nimble handling, and impeccable style.

Toyota will debut the Toyota RAV4 plug-in hybrid during the Los Angeles Auto Show media days, on November 20, 2019, at the Toyota booth in South Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Electrek’s Take

We are not big fans of PHEVs at Electrek, but we are normally able to admit that they are still a step in the right direction to get off gas.

However, we obviously can’t say that in this case.

They could have leveraged what they learned from the RAV4 EV program with Tesla and developed a much better all-electric by now.

Instead, they are going to launch a PHEV version seven years later, and they are also launching a new version of the Mirai hydrogen vehicle.

Toyota is still supposed to bring a battery-electric to market next year, but they seem so far behind at this point that I don’t know what to think about their electrification plans.

One thing I know for sure is that a PHEV version of the RAV4 is going to be hard to sell in 2021 when there are going to be so many great all-electric SUVs available at that point.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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