It's roomy, comfortable, and solid (the latter quality no doubt due to the heavy batteries that make the electric model about 400 pounds heavier than its gas-powered sibling). The air conditioner was at least as good as, if not better, than a the aircon system in our Corolla.
The electric motor was somewhat quieter than a gas-powered car, but today's cars are pretty quiet so that didn't really leave an impression on me. The thing I did notice was how responsive the acceleration is. With a drivetrain built in collaboration with Tesla Motors, The RAV4 EV is one of the zippiest cars I've ever driven. In fact, I accidentally squealed the tires when driving out of my daughter's school parking lot.
The other surprising thing was that no one who saw the car when I was running errands, dropping off kids, parking at restaurants, etc. said anything to me. I was hoping someone would say, "Cool! An electric car." But the fact is, as nice-looking as the RAV 4 EV is (and it's an attractive car) it does't look like a flying saucer. It looks like a car. Again, that's a good thing. If it looked weird, most people wouldn't want one. Toyota was smart to avoid outlandishness.
Like the gas-powered RAV4, the EV model has plenty of cargo room. Toyota did a good job of hiding the batteries under the floor so they don't take up interior space.
It takes 44 hours to fully recharge the depleted lithium-ion battery pack using a standard 110-Volt outlet. If you get a 240-Volt dedicated circuit charging station installed at your house (about $1,000) you can charge it in 5-6 hours. I took the RAV4 EV on a lot of errands around town and drove it on the freeway a few times, but I just used a 110-outlet to top off the batteries overnight. The car had a full charge every morning.
I was truly sorry to hand the key fob to the Toyota rep after my week of gas-free driving.
The 2013 RAV4 EV has a sticker price of $49,500 and is for sale in California only. After various rebates the take home price is around $40,000.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects