EV Home


Toyota RAV4 EV

BMW Mini E



Inside the RAV4 EV

Back | Stats & Impressions | Charging the RAV4 | Inside the RAV4

Inside, the RAV4 EV looks like an ordinary automatic transmission gasoline car unless one looks rather closely.

The "ignition" system uses a normal key, which must be turned to the "ignition" point before springing back to the operating position. For an electric car, this seems to be an unnecessary emulation of a gasoline car since the only thing that happens is that some lights flash. In fact, at least once, it has confused a valet parking lot attendant who thought the car wasn't starting up properly. After a long wait for our car, we figured out what must have been happening and walked over to find the attendant still trying to start the car.

Instrument Cluster

The driver's instrument cluster consists of analog dials indicating charge state in what appears to be linear 10% increments of battery capacity. The RAV4 in practical use (for us) works out to a total range of around 100 miles, so that each increment in the "fuel gage" conveniently corresponds to about 10 miles of range. Dipping into last 20% of capacity lights up a fuel warning icon - a gas pump with an electric plug. Who thought that one up??? Going into the red (bottom 10%) puts the car into "reduced performance" mode which limits the acceleration allowed. A turtle icon lights up if that happens — cute, perhaps, but I prefer having more real feedback such as an indicator of the current being drawn from the batteries to assist in driving conservatively for maximum range.

To the right of the "fuel gage" is a battery voltage indicator which in most cases is useless. Not only are the units not marked, but there is only one dividing mark (between the top green section and bottom yellow section) indicating the "too low" threshold, whatever that is. In normal use the needle is always up in the green section until you are near the bottom of the battery capacity.

It does, however, turn out to be somewhat useful at the point where the batteries are becoming worn out (somewhere around 80,000 miles for us). With old batteries, accelerating will cause the battery voltage to drop. If the drop causes the needle to go into the yellow zone, the car will go into reduced performance mode and thereafter limit the allowable acceleration. The reduced performance mode will reset if the battery voltage is allowed to recover to some point into the green. Thus, by watching the voltage indicator while accelerating, we can avoid putting the car into reduced performance operation.

Another indicator on the instrument cluster not found on gasoline cars is the regen* indicator - "EB" for engine braking which indicates that some light regen is applied when your foot comes off the accelerator. This feels like the normal deceleration you get in a gasoline car when you take your foot off the gas pedal. In the RAV4, this can be turned on and off using a button on the "transmission" selector.


The transmission selector includes the standard ("P", "R", "N", "D") positions, but also allows you to go past "D" to "B", where heavy regen deceleration (heavier than "EB" mode) is applied when you remove your foot from the accelerator. However, this is poorly implemented (seems like a software issue), causing a substantial jerk when this is engaged and you remove your foot from the accelerator. In practice, it is better to take your foot off the accelerator, and then switch to "B" to reduce the jerk.

The center console instruments are also fairly standard, with the exception of a set of controls to control charging and pre-conditioning (heating or cooling) timers. In practice, these are not very useful to us. We have set the charging timer to a fixed time at night to take advantage of lower electricity rates after 9PM, but not used any of the other features.


* Regen (regeneration) mode refers to the use of the motion of the car and the motor to generate electricity and recharge the battery.