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Consumer Reports - No Gas For Toyota RAV4 Prime Over 800 Miles In Testing

In an extended test, one Consumer Reports tester explained why he never had to add gas to the RAV4 Prime Plug-in hybrid over many weeks and 800 miles.

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In its latest “Talking Cars” episode, the staff from Consumer Reports (SR) provides three opinions and many observations on the new Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV). CR’s Director of Auto Testing, Jake Fisher, provided the most details. Jake has over two decades of vehicle testing under his belt. Due to the recent unusual circumstances, the RAV4 Prime was with him for an extended period. During the long test stretch, he put 800 miles on the vehicle and never added gasoline.

Related Story: Consumer Reports - Toyota RAV4 Prime Is An Alternative to Tesla Model Y

Living Electric With the Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV
The RAV4 Prime can operate as a hybrid-electric vehicle, or it can operate as an electric vehicle using only its traction battery and electric motors. Many owners of PHEVs such as the Honda Clarity and the similar Chevy Volt report that they “never use gas.” In fact, many PHEVs have a reminder to use the gasoline in the tank so it does not get stale. Some even have a built-in engine run cycle to ensure the gas doesn’t get old.

Related: Consumer Reports: PHEVs Like RAV4 Prime Have Lower Maintenance & Repair Costs Than BEVs Like Tesla Model Y

Jake lives in a home with a garage near the Connecticut headquarters of CR. During his testing, Jake explained that he plugged it in every evening and in the morning the vehicle was fully charged. The RAV4 Prime has an EPA-estimated all-electric range of 42 miles. We confirmed that in our own real-world testing this past summer. Even with the AC on all the time, we did see 42 miles of EV range in real-world driving.

Winter temperatures reduce the battery range in all EVs. In a study of vehicles by AAA, the Tesla had a 38% reduction in range. The RAV4 Prime always had about “30 miles of range in winter temperatures” to paraphrase Jake’s observation. That range worked out to be more than enough for him. As he explained, “Somehow in my life, everything I go to is 15 miles away.” Jake concludes that “You may not need to get a full EV to just stop using gasoline for the most part.” Jake also observed that the RAV4 Prime “just stays quiet.” He found that it had a very different driving experience than past Toyota hybrids he had driven.

Jake’s household is no stranger to green Toyotas. He says in the video that his wife has a Prius which the family only needs to fuel up “every three months.” What fuel economy does CR report based on its time with the RAV4 Prime? 72 MPGe.

Other feedback from the group included Mike Quincy’s comment that the 300 hp of the RAV4 Prime makes the vehicle “plenty quick.” He added, “ really scoots.” He also said that CR was impressed with the fuel economy and noted the team observed 40 miles of electric-only range. Mike also found the ride of the Prime to better than the regular RAV4, something he called an added bonus.

Keith Barry, one of Consumer Reports writers/editors lives in a home close to Boston that doesn’t have a garage. So for him, charging up was a problem. His conclusion was that a conventional hybrid would be a better choice for him personally rather than have the larger battery the plug-in offers. Keith volunteered that he walks most places and when he does drive, it is far away. His comments are around timestamp 29 minutes.

Another Viewpoint: Read Torque News' Test Report of the RAV4 Prime Here

RAV4 Prime Areas For Improvement
Where does CR see room for improvement in the RAV4 Prime? Stopping distances made the list. Mike also disliked the rear backup warning sound the RAV4 Prime has. Jake feels that he should be able to input the charger with just one hand. He likes the way vehicles like the Tesla Model Y have an automatic door for the charge cover. Rather than adopt that, Jake (an engineer) is thinking, why not an inductive connection-free charging system?

CR Conclusion RAV4 Prime Plug-in Hybrid vs. Other Green Options
Mike Quincy says in the video at time stamp 12:57, “I think this vehicle is way more appealing to me than a regular EV (battery-electric vehicle)”. Mike also says the RAV4 Prime is typical for Toyotas in that it has a “top-notch reputation for reliability.”

Consumer Reports offers comprehensive information about the Toyota RAV4 Prime which you can read online as a subscriber. There are projected reliability ratings, drive test ratings, owner satisfaction ratings, and much more there for you to see.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 17, 2021 - 1:00AM

So I think that he said that he went through a half tank of gas, but he never had to fill up over 800 miles. And this is pretty typical as long as you have some charging at home. He said that he actually just recharged the RAV4 Prime using a 110V plug, which takes longer, but can mostly be done overnight. When I had charging at home and at work I averaged 171MPG on my Chevy Volt! When people talk about battery recharge time and EV range, they mostly talk about recharging the battery from empty. And with a smaller PHEV battery like in the RAV4 Prime this is certainly possible, but it is less common having to recharge from empty with EVs that have a bigger battery. You only have to recharge the power that you use each day. Of course the other commentators brought up the fact that they didn't have home or work charging ability, which affects the value of an EV or plug-in hybrid for them. It highlights the fact that over 90% of U.S. drivers have gas-only vehicles that they drive each day, and EVs, and plug-in EVs have to fight to get some more of that bigger market. For many buyers, EVS and PHEVs are not the best fit, and they won't be able to justify paying a higher price for features that they cannot take advantage of. But that still leaves millions of other buyers where EVs and PHEVs are a good fit, and well worth the extra money. And importantly as EV/PHEV and hybrid prices drop, and more models become available, the larger automotive market will open up for electrified vehicles.

John Goreham    January 17, 2021 - 9:49AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Yes, to all you say above. I loved the overview because the chat gives three separate impressions of real-world living with a green vehicle. I only had the Prime for a week, but I used 115 V and it was always charged when I headed out. One thing I wish more testers would do is deplete the traction battery to zero and then top off the liquid fuel. Drive normally for a couple of hundred miles, top off again, and then measure miles traveled by the gas used. I got over 45 MPG doing that in hot summer with AC on full time. I was glad Jake pointed out how quiet the Prime was too. I tested the RAV4 Hybrid, Venza, and Sienna all within a few months of the Prime. The Prime is at another level in terms of silent operation. I'm in a '21 Highlander this week. V6 Limited. This vehicle would be an ideal Prime candidate. 23.3 MPG is just not OK anymore.

NormT (not verified)    January 19, 2021 - 10:13AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

We have a similar Cadillav CT6 plug-in and are up around 3,000 miles per tank. People think they need long distance battery range for daily commuting and they really don't. My work is 12 miles away and most shopping and dining is 3-8 miles away. A hybrid wouldn't never warm up on just a couple of miles so battery is better.

Ray Tucker (not verified)    January 17, 2021 - 3:45PM

One thing missing on Toyota PHEV's is an hour meter on the ICE. The number of miles driven isn't the best indicator for engine maintenance.

John Goreham    January 17, 2021 - 4:22PM

In reply to by Ray Tucker (not verified)

Ray, this is an excellent point. I recently did a story about three ways the RAV4 Prime can be improved and that was related to the most important area for improvement. How cool would it be if the oil change interval was related to hours of operation? I'd love to see Toyota push out the required service interval to 12 months or longer. We owned a BMW X3 that had an interval longer. It can be done!

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 18, 2021 - 6:02PM

In reply to by Ray Tucker (not verified)

All PHEVs will show you mileage and percentage driven in EV mode and on gas. And the internal computer recommendations for needing an oil change are based solely on miles driven using gasoline. If you have a short commute, or have charging available at work it can really extend out engine service and oil changes because the gas engine is rarely used. In one of my Chevy Volts I had a lifetime MPG average of 171MPG, and I ended up driving 8,000 miles using gas compared to the total 37,000 miles on the leased car. So even though the Chevy Volt had 37K miles after 3 years of driving, the gas generator engine only had 8K miles on it. Plus the brakes were barely used because of regenerative braking doing most of the work. Toyota might actually have a energy display mode that shows total gas engine mileage, but it would likely be in a sub-menu. Alternatively, you could just look at the EV miles shown compared to the total vehicle mileage. But you have a good point that the engine use info should be easily accessible.

Roberto Alvarado (not verified)    January 17, 2021 - 3:47PM

My experience with a 2019 RAV Hybrid is not very good, my milage in the City is 35.6 while they advertised 41. I never got over 38. The sensors are not very good, sometime they work. I HAVE LIKE 40 ISSUES WITH THE RAV 4 HYBRID. I go to a dealer and they do not know what to do or say. My 3th Toyota. Hum!

John Goreham    January 17, 2021 - 4:24PM

In reply to by Roberto Alvarado (not verified)

Feel free to add more detail. We love feedback of any kind from owners. This story was about the RAV4 Prime, but the two are close siblings. Good news for RAV4 Hybrid owners coming in tomorrow's news. Just waiting for a small bit of info before we publish. Check back if interested.

Bill (not verified)    January 17, 2021 - 5:09PM

Who is this Jake moron? The kind of wannabe "engineer" that thinks that a non-standard, inductive charging connection is a good idea (or even feasible)?

Lay off the grass there Cheech, and let the real engineers discuss things.

I'm sure the engineers in Japan are throwing back Sake and laughing at you while they say "be quiet now kiddo, the adults are talking."

Just stick to writing mindless articles about Camaros and leave they intelligent conversations to the adults.

David Radzieta (not verified)    January 17, 2021 - 7:18PM

Excellent News. I hope they sell a million to people without access to home charging or families that can only have one vehicle. Great car.

EVs are the best vehicles for commuting and regional commuting. If your PHeV rums on a high alcohol mix or hydrogen it can be almost emission free like a EV.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 18, 2021 - 2:50AM

Bill, I wonder if you have a problem with the idea of inductive EV charging, or just the point of adopting it without having an agreed upon standard. Because there are existing inductive EV chargers from Plugless and others providing consumer charging solutions today. There is a wireless charging standard from the Society of Automotive Engineers (referred to as SAE J2954) that looks like a strong candidate for adoption, but like the Qi inductive standard for small devices, it takes a LONG time to get consensus on any connection technology standard. On one side, (for the last 8 years) I haven't had any big problem manually plugging my car in when I get home. With the ability to automatically have the EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) fully charge my car overnight. But I have also had problems in the past charging outside in hard rain, with water shorting out the car's charger. So for convenience, simplicity and weather resilient, safe, outdoor charging, inductive systems show great promise.

Don Swier (not verified)    January 18, 2021 - 5:59AM

Great article.
I'm impressed, but not surprised by Jake's RAV4 Prime results.
I'm far from an EV evangelist, but bought a used i3 with Range Extender (2cyl gas generator option) last summer.
We use the i3 for ALL family trips and commuting here in the Northwest. We'd MAYBE use our 4runner to take a 1000 mile vacation, but mostly it sits.
So far, despite its meager 120-mile EV range, the i3 has averaged over 1000 mpg in 10k miles. Best part, we've never suffered range anxiety, even on long trips where we've encountered faulty public chargers (all too common issue ...still).
PHEV's are truly the best option for now IMHO.
Signed, bona fire lifetime Petrolhead Don.

Randy Rabe (not verified)    January 18, 2021 - 10:51AM

Question, what is the cost of electricity (nothing's free) used to keep a plug in charged compared to the cost of using gasoline? Also the environmental impact of producing electric compared to using gas?

John Goreham    January 18, 2021 - 3:44PM

In reply to by Randy Rabe (not verified)

Excellent question Randy, and the full answer is not succinct enough for a comments section. What is the cost of electricity? Your electric provider includes that on your bill. It is likely between $0.12/kWhr and $0.25/kWhr. That translates to a cost per mile of around 3 to 6 cents if you charge at home. If you have solar that may be less. The environmental impact of producing electricity is dependant on the source. Hydro and nuclear are very low impact. Wind, solar, and biomass cogeneration plants are also considered low impact. Natural gas is a big source and its impact depends on the source of the gas and other factors. Other fossil fuel sources are relatively high impact. Your local provider can give you more details and almost all offer you the choice to opt for green sources at a small premium should you wish.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 18, 2021 - 5:44PM

In reply to by Randy Rabe (not verified)

The cost of powering a plug-in EV depends on how many miles you drive a day, where you live, how you drive, and your local power provider's rate plan cost. My ELR averages about 40 miles of EV range, which uses around 12kW of electricity. My current EV rate (charging automatically overnight) is $0.15 per kW, which works out to around $1.80 per day. It also gets about 40MPG using the onboard generator in hybrid mode, and gas here currently averages around $3.25 a gallon ($3.50 for Premium).

Everton (not verified)    January 18, 2021 - 11:17AM

Great article John. I bought my 1st Volt in 2015 and still drive it everyday.
The argument you make here is what I've been trying to tell people for years!!!

I was always frustrated that most articles about PHEVs (and thus the opinions of non-EV enthusiasts) was always about the short range in EV mode and the long time to charge. Thank you!

Most people can go mostly gas-free with a small battery with ~40 miles of range.
In one week you did 800 miles, my record is about 2800 over almost 3 months.

It is my opinion that the amount of Li-ion batteries in a Tesla that goes unused everyday is a waste. Both a waste of natural resources and a waste of customer's money to carry around so many battery cells unecessarily everyday. 5-8 PHEVs could be made with that amount of cells and taking that many more gas-only cars off the road.

John Goreham    January 18, 2021 - 3:50PM

In reply to by Everton (not verified)

Well said. In a world where diesel-gulping, pollution-spewing commuter rail trains, cargo trucks, and other commercial vehicles are the norm, it is always odd to me when the "No-gas" battery-electric folks push back on Toyota's green vehicles, which are mainly hybrid-electric and more recently PHEVs. It sure seems to me that any green passenger vehicle is a step in a positive direction. Any Volt, i3, or Prius Prime forum can reveal just how many folks use these green machines almost entirely as EVs, but can then also take an occasional long trip like to drive their kid to college out of state without the worry of finding a charger. The carbon footprint of a second vehicle is crazy, not to mention cost. Why not one PHEV to handle all of one's needs?

Kyle (not verified)    March 31, 2021 - 6:11PM

What were the corresponding temperatures during the all electric range results you were giving? I am only getting about 30 miles when it is 45° out.

cathy (not verified)    February 13, 2022 - 7:08PM

How often do you recommend using up the gasoline in the Rav4Prime? I read that it is not healthy to leave it in for a year or even over 6 months, as they gel like consistency can be damaging to the mechanical parts. Though I didn't use any gas in the first 2 months, I am intentionally using it up now. I plan to do so every 3 to 6 months. What do you think?

DeanMcManis (not verified)    February 14, 2022 - 12:56PM

If the RAV4 Prime is like all of the plug-in hybrids that I've owned, it automatically burns a little bit of gas regularly throughout the year to make sure that the gas doesn't get old.

Russ Bryan (not verified)    December 5, 2022 - 12:10PM

Am I correct that the 42 mile RAV4 range is based on 100 percent battery charge?
What would be the recommended maximum plugin charge level for daily use? For example if it is recommended to only occasionally go to 100% and only go to 80 or 90% charge I presume the range wouldn’t be 42 miles and actually be ten to twenty percent less?