Toyota kidnaps one more electric car

The storyline is meant to be changing. From Who Killed the Electric Car? to Who Revived the Electric Car? Now that automakers seem to be reevaluating plug-in cars, you’d think the era of automakers taking extraordinary steps to keep electric cars from private ownership would be over. You’d be wrong.

As GM talks up the Volt, it ensures EV1s at museums and universities not be returned to the road as electric cars. As Toyota gets headlines for suggesting it will offer a few fleets a few plug-in hybrids in 3 or 4 years, it does what it can to take the myth-busting RAV4 EV out of private hands.

In mid-January a 2002 RAV4 EV south of San Francisco came to the end of its five year lease. The leaseholder chose not to buy out the lease, and returned the electric car to the dealer. Very few RAV4 EVs have been returned to the dealer when the lease ends. Most people have been so pleased with their electric Toyota that they choose to buy the car outright. Some, recognizing the market for the cars, pay the $27,000 balance only to turn around and eBay the car, earning a quick $5,000 to$15,000. Why this leaseholder simply turned in his electric car to his Toyota dealer is unknown.

But Eric Doebert, a salesman at Magnussen Toyota in Palo Alto, knew there was still interest in the car. The dealership did well with the RAV4 EV during the brief period it was offered, selling twenty one of the $42,000 electric SUVs. And as soon as the word got out that a used RAV4 EV had been returned and would be offered for sale, the calls of interest began to pile up. Ordinarily when a leased car is returned the dealer gets first dibs – if they choose they can buy the car and sell it.

Since no leased RAV4 EV had ever been returned to the Palo Alto dealer, Doebert was unprepared for Toyota’s unusual next steps. The Toyota computer had a block on the car – the dealer couldn’t buy the car. The dealer wanted to work out something with Toyota due to the great interest in the car. They simply wanted to do a little business, sell the used electric car. But Toyota refused. I know that at least once before a leased car was returned to another dealer, and ultimately that RAV4 EV was resold to a private party. Apparently Toyota decided that would not happen again.

So just before closing time on Thursday January 24th, without any notice and after the sales and used car staff had left, Toyota corporate in San Ramon sent two of its agents to retrieve the car. The lot boy gave up the keys, and the staff returned the next morning to find a good sale on a great Toyota had been denied them by Toyota.

The situation isn’t as bad as it might have been. Toyota agreed with Plug In America in 2005 to stop destroying RAV4 EVs, and I trust that this car will remain “in service.” But it won’t be driving around the San Francisco Bay Area, taking someone to work, some kids to school, heightening interest in plug in cars and proving the viability of electric cars. RAV4 EVs in private hands prove daily that electric cars are not dead yet.

— Marc G: Plugs and Cars Blog

11 Responses to Toyota kidnaps one more electric car

  1. Earl Killian says:

    My guess is that Toyota is as afraid as the other automakers that drivers will learn that EVs don’t have engines, spark plugs, radiators, hoses, belts, oil and air filters, fluid changes, alternators, mufflers, catalytic converters, and transmissions. Those are profitable maintenance items, and if drivers get used to not having to pay for them, it could affect automaker profits down the line. The primary wear items for EVs are tires and wipers (maybe someday brake pads, but regenerative braking lightens the load on those).

  2. Sorghum Crow says:

    Free press, even bad, is still free press.

    I think Toyota should be hunting down and publicizing the RAV4-EVs that are out there.

    But, As Mr. Killian notes above, a durable, low-maintenance automobile is not in the best interest of the company (in terms of growth and the bottom line). Bastards.

  3. Kermit Beauhrt says:

    I laugh at the total imbecilility of believing that the crappy and impractical 1990’s EVs are seen as viable alternatives to a gas car, or that the automakers would spend billions to develop them (and new technologies like regenerative braking, which is still a major enhancement of Evs) jus so they could destroy the vehicles.Another big stupid idea is that all the automakers were braindead and couldn’t see that the EV-1 (named by Tiem recently as one of the worst cars ever built) and Rav4 were totally impractically, exorbitantly expensive (the EV-1 cost three times more than
    a Honda Accord and needed $20,000 every 5 years to replace the battery pack of 26 NiMH cells, weighing 1200 pounds(!). Only those naiive and gullible fools who swallowed the preposterously illogical arguments of that crockumentary “Who Killed ..” would believe that all of the dozen major automakers would want to avoid a “new” (right!! – the Detroit Electric of 1907 was pretty much every bit as good as the EV-1) tehnology.
    Do the math using DOT stats and you’ll see that the Chevy VOLT can accomplish everything (and more) the EV-1 ever could in terms of
    avoiding gasoline and carbon emissions, especially while runningon ethanol, which is almost always cleaner than grid-supplied electricity.
    Only a dimwitted seven year old would buy the baloney that people need to spens over $43,000 for a car (the EV-1) that couldn’t reliably get to a destination over 40 miles away (and don’t get lost, or have to detour, or use the AC too much) , took 8 hours to recharge, required $20,000 worth of batteries every 5 years (the new Tesla battery pack costs $30,000, and
    also lasts about 5 years, whether you drive the car or not). Anyone who shills for these poor quality EV makers should be required to own and drive one. I can’t think of a better punishment, although it might be considered cruel and usual to force someone to drive a battery-only EV.
    I love the ignorance of those who think that a battery EV will have low maintenance and be more reliable than a gas car. Where are they living? on Mars? Most auto problems have nothing to do with the power drivetrain. They involve accessories THAT ARE ALMOST ALWAYS POWERED BY ELECTRICTY. And automakers don’t make money by building unreliable cars, as this fool claims. Warranty claims, to the contrary , are the biggest negative on a companies corporate profits.
    And after the warranty, the owners vitually NEVER go to a dealership for repairs. Sorghum Crow, in other words, is a lying bastard.

  4. Tom C Gray says:

    Sorghum Crow doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The major failed
    waranty companents are ELECTRICAL (as Beauhrt noted correctly) not associated with the gas powertrain, which typically carries a 100,000 mile warranty. Crow is either a fool or lying thru his teeth.
    Anyone who claims that electric cars are viable alternatives, should be forced to own one. They are nothing more than a gigantic headache and of no little value. They simply cannot replace a gas car, as even dimwitted 7 year olds easily can understand. And the batteries cost a small fortune, a point avoided by those shysters claiming that “it only costs pennies” to operate. There are obviously plenty of deceiving shills posting on this blog. An they aren’t even plausible in their arguments – the idea that a company would spend billions to build a car so they could destroy it (and accomplish what?) is so bizarre I am starting to reconsider the possibility that we have been visited by aliens. Really stupid aliens. Really, really stupid aliens.

  5. John Mashey says:

    Kermit (& Tom) (assuming one isn’t a sock-puppet, the writing style is pretty similar):

    I assume you haven’t owned, say a RAV4EV, whose story in Wikipedia seems reasonably accurate, including the battery issues. I haven’t owned one either, but maybe people who do can comment knowledgably. I’ve driven an EV1, and it wouldn’t have been practical for me, but it sure was fun. I tried to drive an electric SMART in Palo Alto, but there were too many people ahead of me in the line to try it.

    I don’t know what car companies’ motivations are in this, but I suspect at least some of this is avoiding Osborne Effect. In particular, it is a bad idea to talk very much about something if a) You can’t deliver many of them, due to supply constraints b) You can’t deliver it yet, and customers wait. Cars are at least somewhat like computers, especially in the old days: customers expected vendors to support products for a long time, including spares.

    One can hope that the Toyota 1/X concept car actually turns into a real product sometime, and that people pick up on the Trinity AVS work.

    Pure gasoline-powered *cars* will slowly be going the way of the dodo in favor of EV and PHEV… at least for anyone who isn’t wealthy. Peak Oil is here or coming soon, and even if it weren’t, there are some areas (like Los Angeles, CA Central valley especially) that need to be *burning* less, whether it’s gas, diesel, ethanol, biodiesel.

  6. Earl Killian says:

    For the record, let me say that our family has a 2002 RAV4-EV in the garage, and it is a great vehicle, so unlike some other posters, I have first-hand knowledge of what I am talking about. We have 76,000 miles on the original battery pack and it is still going strong (that’s just one data point, but it is a point consistent with plenty of real data). I consider the suggestion that NiMH batteries need to be replaced every 5 years quite silly.

    I also was on the EV-1 waiting list (the one GM doesn’t like to admit) for a long time before getting a letter saying there were no more to lease. The EV-1 would have satisfied my needs as well.

    No one said the RAV4-EV and EV-1 would have satisfied everyone’s needs (what two vehicles would?). The point is that they would have satisfied a great many people’s, and that would have made a difference.

  7. Marc Geller says:

    I don’t know where the venom of Kermit Beauhrt and Tom C Gray comes from, but they embarrass themselves with the ignorance they parade as facts. I invite both to the take a ride in my well over 5 year old 2002 RAV4 EV. It has 57,000 miles on the original battery pack and still has the original range of well over 100 miles per charge. It is my only car, and has proven to be more reliable than the gas cars I have owned in the past.

  8. Paul Scott says:

    Kermit and Tom are the same person. It takes a pretty immature and uninformed person to write such tripe, and then to respond to his own manure. Oh well, the enemies of EVs have been guilty of much worse. I figure this bozo is a freelancer, though, since the industry guys hire people who can at least spell.

    For the record – Kermit – I’ve been driving a RAV for over 5 years like Earl, and there has been zero maintenance, just like its zero pollution.

    It’s the only car I’ve driven for half a decade and I’ve driven all over LA, Orange, San Diego and Ventura Counties. That’s a pretty good range for a car with a proprietary charging infrastructure!

    All the new EVs will be able to charge from any 110 or 220 plug, greatly expanding the range.

    If you don’t like the pollution from the electricity you use, why are you still using dirty power? You have a choice to get power from solar or wind, so do so and all of your driving in an EV will be 100% pollution-free.

  9. Joe says:

    I see that Tom and Kermit are the same person.
    My apologies for not noticing sooner.
    I have deleted both comments.

  10. Beauchert fan says:

    I know Kent Beaucherts’ (AKA Kermit Beauhrt) comments can be a little harsh and sometimes he follows up his cantankerous comments with more cantankerous comments under a different name but please don’t delete them. They are a source of great amusement to some. You can learn more about the postings of Mssr.Beauchert here.
    Or, just stick his name(s) in quotations and google away.

  11. patrick says:

    Some similarities between the oil industry and the tobacco industry: They both exploit people’s addictions (nicotine in tobacco, the convenience of gas). Also, both industries have stifled better alternatives (not smoking is healthier than smoking, not using gas pollutes less). People have successfully resisted tobacco companies…