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223 Miles in Toyota's Tesla-Based SUV

One reason might be that Toyota is selling only approximately 80 of these cars per month. However, that may not be because it's sold only in California, but also because it's a limited series product so prospective customers may be worried about long-term support. Consumers want to see volume commitments from the auto makers when it comes to plug-in cars: big investments in purpose-made vehicles, not limited-series conversions.

The smartphone app that comes with the car is a bit behind offerings by major competitors such as Ford and GM. For example, it does not allow you to send directions to the car via the cloud nor does it unlock the car.

All in all, this was the most fun car experience I have ever had, for two reasons: First, the car is blisteringly fast, just like the regular Tesla -- even if you are dealing with narrow and inexpensive tires and sitting high up as you would be in any SUV.

Second, precisely because it's an SUV, the car is a tremendous pleasure because it is so practical. Many of us are either tall or getting old and no longer find it easy to bend down into a low-slung car to get in and out. We want tall minivans and SUVs with big doors, so we can slide in and out without pretending to be in yoga class.

So what is the case against the Toyota RAV4 EV? Aside from the obvious limitation of any electric car with a 100-110 mile range, it's all about the competition that is about to arrive on the U.S. market over the next year. This includes cars such as the BMW i3 and the Chevrolet Volt 2.0.

Electrified cars are making huge progress right now, so if you wait even as little as a year, you are most certainly going to find much-improved options.

For example, the Toyota RAV4 EV doesn't have the new standardized DC fast-charger. This means that despite a 100 mile range, you can only recharge at rate of approximately 18 miles per hour at most current public charging stations.

With cars such as the BMW i3 and Chevrolet Spark, you would be able to recharge much faster -- perhaps get a 60-mile charge in under 30 minutes. These chargers are not yet available, and won't be broadly deployed until late 2014 at the very earliest. But when they are it would be something you would miss in the current Toyota.

That said, the Toyota RAV4 EV is the ideal around-town commuter SUV. You can reliably drive close to 100 miles, the car is insanely fast and the SUV body makes it very roomy and practical for people and luggage alike.

If you live in California and you need an electric car right now -- as opposed to a few months down the road -- the Tesla-based Toyota RAV4 EV should be at the top of your list, side by side with the regular Tesla and the Chevrolet Volt.

You will be driving with a big grin on your face, and with practical satisfaction, for years to come.

At the time of publication the author was long F.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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