2021 RAV4 Plug in Hybrid. Too little, too late?
It is very good news that Toyota is coming out with a plug-in version of their RAV4. The less-good news is that it is a 2021 model.
RAV4 EV History
Toyota has had a couple full electric (BEV) versions of the RAV4 (1st model in 1997), so in one sense they are going back a step in releasing a PHEV version, and in 2021. And because it looks to be a year away, it means that all of the other automakers who are moving toward electrification will have time to catch up and pass Toyota in their products.
In one sense Toyota appears to be ahead of most rivals in their EV offerings.
Honda will be offering the CRV as a normal hybrid, but hasn't shown any plug-in hybrid or BEV CUVs yet. Nissan is not even in the EV CUV game, having killed off the Rogue hybrid this year, they just have the Leaf as it's sole EV offering, they are rumored to be offering a full electric crossover, but not until 2021.
But offering the RAV4 PHEV is a 2021 model may be too late.
Chevy has its impressive Bolt today and it's rumored larger EUV/BEV crossover is due in the RAV4 PHEV timeframe, as is Ford's planned Mach-E, which will be a powerful, long range BEV CUV with Mustang styling cues. And in that 2020-2021 timeframe VW will probably release their ID.4 CUV and ID Buzz EVs as well.
And then there is Tesla.
In the same way that the Prius Prime does and doesn't compete with the Tesla Model 3, the RAV4 PHEV will undoubtedly be compared against the upcoming Model Y. And considering that the 2012 RAV4 EV was really a test bed for the Model X, the Model Y is a logical extension of where the RAV4 EV could be. The RAV4 PHEV should be less expensive than the Tesla Model Y, but a loaded Model Y will probably come pretty close in price, especially with a lower cost Model Y (under $40K) due after it's introduction. And like the Model 3, the base Model Y will probably be quicker and offer better handling than the RAV4 PHEV, and the Performance Model Y will be in another league, offering performance car acceleration.
Still, the RAV4 PHEV will be a great success.
Toyota brings its strong engineering, good reliability, and good resale value to the competition with this upcoming model. And Toyota is showing a strong line-up of EVs (hybrids, PHEVs, and BEVs) across their whole model line-up, especially compared to their major automaker rivals. So even though they are moving cautiously (and too slow for some EV enthusiasts) in the larger picture they are still ahead of most of their rivals, and leading the industry in the move towards EVs.