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  • Writer's pictureMpho Mahlangu

Toyota to 'Test the Waters' With RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle

With increased pressure for OEMs to offer new-energy vehicles as part of their model ranges, Toyota South Africa Motors have imported a number of RAV4 plug-in hybrid units in order to undergo research exercises to test customer response, vehicle behaviour, infrastructure requirements and educating customers on the plug-in technology.

With the RAV4 plug-in hybrid not yet officially on sale in South Africa, the exercise represents phase 2 of the firms New Energy Vehicle (NEV) roll-out plan.

Exterior Design

Only a few visual features set the RAV4 plug-in hybrid apart from other variants and these include a bespoke front bumper grille with a chrome border and chrome accents on the lower apron. The rear boasts a chrome license plate garnish. Exclusive to the plug-in hybrid model are a set of stylised 19-inch alloy wheels with a machined finish and snowflake profile.

Six exterior Bi-Tone paint colors are on offer and these include Pearl White, Chromium Silver, Graphite Grey, Emotional Red and Moonlight Ocean Metallic.

Interior Design

Inside, the Toyota RAV4 plug-in hybrid is based off its GX-R sibling. Exclusive features include red accent trim for the leather seats, centre console and dashboard, and cool blue illumination as a reminder for the electrification of the powerplant.

A unique instrument cluster is fitted, which sees a dedicated battery state of charge dial in place of a traditional tachometer. Several infographic displays may be called up on the large Multi-information Display (MID) and these include EV% use, hybrid system operation, cruising range and torque split.

Standard specification in the vehicle includes smart entry, seat heating and cooling, driver seat memory, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, a fully digital rear view mirror with multiple view modes, wireless charger and five USB points. A premium, 9-speaker JBL sound system complimented the 9.0-inch infotainment system is also fitted. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are integrated.

Electrified Powertrain

Powering the Toyota RAV4 plug-in hybrid is a 2.5-litre petrol engine which is paired with a larger EV battery and two electric motors on each axle. The battery offers 18.1kW of power whilst the petrol engine delivers 136kW and 227Nm of torque. The front electric motor delivers 134kW and 270Nm of torque, with the rear electric motor delivering 40kW and 121Nm of torque. This puts the total system output at 225kW.

A CVT transmission is employed in the RAV4 plug-in hybrid, with power sent to all four wheels via the E-four AWD system which is able to intelligently switch between AWD and 2WD modes depending on driving conditions.

Driving Modes

Four modes are on offer for the driver to choose from, namely: EV mode, HV mode, Auto EV/HV mode and Charging mode.

EV mode acts as the default setting and prioritizes electric-only driving. The vehicle offers up to 80km of driving range in this mode depending on battery state of charge and usage conditions.

HV mode allows the vehicle to operate like a traditional Toyota hybrid vehicle. The driver may select HV mode themselves however the system may also automatically switch to HV mode should the battery drop below EV mode operation levels. This mode allows the vehicle to continue its journey even with the battery depleted by means of using regenerative braking or charging the battery via the petrol engine. With HV mode selected, total driving range may exceed over 800kms depending on driving conditions.

An Auto EV/HV allows the system to switch between pure electric and hybrid modes based on acceleration inputs. The petrol motor 'kicks in' as required and then shuts down and returns to electric operation when conditions allow.

Charging mode is provided to recharge the battery by means of the system using the petrol engine to recharge the battery pack. This is particularly useful for when a recharging facility is not immediately available. Once the hybrid battery is fully recharged, the system will automatically switch the HV mode.

Recharging the RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid

Recharging the RAV4 plug-in hybrid is made possible thanks to two solutions: a Toyota Mode 2 and Mode 3 charging cable. Mode 2 allows for home or office charging via a conventional AC 220-240V electric wall outlet. A full charge may take between 7-9 hours. Mode 3 allows for fast DC charging via a dedicated charging station, with a full charge taking 2.5 hours when using a 32A, 6.6kW charger.

We expect the RAV4 plug-in hybrid to be a sales success once it goes on sale locally.

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