Report: Toyota Considering RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota is already considering upgrades for the 2013 Toyota RAV4, just a few days after introducing the car at the Los Angeles auto show. Auto Express reports that Toyota may introduce a hybrid version of the new RAV4 crossover.

"We are watching the market. After introducing the new RAV4 we will see. There will be a possibility of introducing a hybrid RAV4 and we will respond to what the market wants," Toyota RAV4 engineer Yoshikazu Saeki told AE.

Toyota already sells two hybrid SUVs here, the Highlander and Lexus RX. The fact that the new RAV4 is related to the European Toyota Auris should simplify the task of converting it to hybrid propulsion: the availability of an Auris Hybrid in Europe is evidence Toyota already knows how to add a battery pack and electrical components to that chassis architecture.

The European Toyota Auris Hybrid uses a 1.8-liter inline-four gasoline engine rated for 98 hp and a 60-kW electric motor, and returns the equivalent of 59 mpg. However, the powertrain would probably be too slow for use in the larger and heavier 2013 Toyota RAV4: the Auris Hybrid takes a leisurely 11.4 seconds to reach 60 mph. A hybrid RAV4 might employ a beefier engine and motor, such as the 156-hp, 2.5-liter gas engine and 105-kW electric motor already used in the Toyota Camry hybrid.

Regardless, don't expect Toyota to rush a hybrid RAV4 onto the market. The new crossover already trumps the economy ratings of most compact crossovers, with the 2013 model rated for 24/31 mpg (city/highway) with front-wheel drive. A hybrid version would need to offer significantly improved fuel economy, and that will probably take many months of development work.

Moreover, Yoshikazu Saeki hints that Toyota would only introduce the hybrid model if the new-car market demanded it. That could be a sign Toyota can only justify launching a hybrid RAV4 if the regular model sells in droves first.

Source: Auto Express

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