The collaboration between Toyota and Tesla is not just a one-way street of a cash infusion of $50 million from the Japanese auto giant to the Silicon Valley startup. Tesla pitched in with technical expertise and engineering in developing the new RAV4 EV. Those of you with a keen long-term memory may remember this isn't actually the first RAV4 EV. The first-generation model was offered from 1997-2003, and although the gasoline-powered RAV transitioned to a new body style in 2001, the EV soldiered on with the first-generation chassis until the end of its production run. With a new RAV4 due for 2013, it's unknown whether this generation will follow the same pattern, but it's starting to look like it.

Although pure electrics aren't generally renowned for their exhilarating performance, Tesla's high-performance DNA shows in the vehicle's quick 0-60 time of 7 seconds flat in sport mode, with a still-respectable 8.6-second 0-60 time in the normal driving mode. The RAV4 EV has an estimated total range of 100 miles, and a 100 mph top speed. A full charge using the 240v charger takes approximately six hours. An emergency charger designed to work with a conventional AC 120v outlet is also included. Peak power output is 154 hp @ 2800 rpm.

The RAV4 EV can be distinguished from its gasoline-powered brethren by a unique grille and front-end treatment consisting of a new front bumper, upper and lower grille, and unique headlights with LED running lights. Further enhancing the SUV's aerodynamics are unique side mirrors, a rear spoiler, and smooth underbody. Altogether, these enhancements contribute to a slippery 0.30 Cd, the best of any production SUV in the world, according to Toyota.

Inside, the EV model is much the same as other RAV4 models, featuring a six-way adjustable driver's seat, front seat heaters, split-reclining rear seats yielding the same 73 cubic-foot interior capacity as a conventional RAV4. Likewise, Toyota's Entune media connectivity suite is also included, as well as SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming, and iPod connectivity.

The RAV4 EV will initially be sold only in California, in the four major markets of Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles/Orange County, and San Diego. Toyota projects sales of 2600 units over the next three years. Like many other advanced-propulsion vehicles, the EV carries a substantial price premium over its conventional ICE-powered equivalent, starting at $50,610, including destination. The RAV4 will be available for sale in its selected launch markets in summer 2012.