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Tesla Cars on Sale for Half the Price

Stocks in this article: TMTSLA

The body of the RAV4 has undergone aerodynamic improvements on every side, forming the most aerodynamically efficient SUV on the market today. Under the skin, the regular gasoline engine with its muffler, gasoline tank and other gazillion components have given way to Tesla's key streamlined electric car modules.

The battery has a usable capacity of 41.8 kWh, although the total capacity is greater -- and unspecified -- but the "standard" mode of charging will fill it to only 35 kWh, because that lengthens the life of the battery. The warranty is 8 years and 100,000 miles.

The electric motor and its related components sit up front, same as where the gasoline engine usually is. In other words, it's basically a regular Tesla, except this one is front-wheel drive. The battery looks like a gigantic 800-pound iPad and sits in the floor of the car, which makes for a zero-compromise interior with lots of space for people and their luggage.

The interior is basic cloth and cheap mouse-gray plastic. By no means is this a premium car. The electronics in and around the center stack are similar to other premium electric cars, however, such as the Chevrolet Volt.

The basic ergonomics of the Tesla-based Toyota are straightforward in a good way. You step into the car very comfortably, and you can start driving it without any tutorial. I really don't think you even need to know that it's an electric car -- just press the start button and go. And go it does!

Performance: It's mostly about driving range.

In a pure electric car, what most people want to know is the range. On a 35 kWh charge, the EPA certification looks to be 92 miles on average. On a 41.8 kWh charge, it would be 113 miles. I drove the car aggressively with modest A/C and it looked like the car would be able to go at least around 100 miles if I had driven it to empty.

The theoretical maximum range is 170 miles. I suppose most people will have no problem clearing 110 miles in most of California, unless they drive very fast on the freeway. The top speed is limited to 100 miles per hour.

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