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Toyota has given its second-generation RAV4 EV its official debut at the LA show, and though the electric SUV’s market introduction isn’t due until 2012, the programme will certainly be busy up to then – a total of 35 vehicles will be built for demonstration and evaluation through 2011 ahead of the fully-engineered vehicle arriving in two years time.

When it does arrive, the RAV4 EV – which is jointly developed with Tesla Motors – will have a target range of 160 km in actual use, over a wide range of climates and conditions.

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The RAV4 EV features several distinct exterior styling changes, and aside from new EV badging and a custom “mutually exclusive” exterior paint shade, distinct items include a new front bumper, grille, fog lamps and head lamps. Inside, there’s custom seat trim, multimedia dash displays, push-button shifter and dashboard meters in terms of new items.

The demonstration vehicle Toyota is currently testing is powered by a lithium metal oxide battery, with useable output rated in the mid-30 kWh range. Most noticeably, with the rear seats folded down, no cargo space was lost in the conversion to an electric powertrain.

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Nonetheless, the battery size and final output ratings, as well as pricing and volume projections of the vehicle Toyota plans to bring to market eventually are not yet definite.

The demonstration mule weighs in approximately 220 pounds more than the current RAV4 V6, but Toyota says it will do the 0-100 kph sprint nearly as quickly as the latter. To negate this added weight, the SUV was given a significant retuning of major components and a prioritised focus on weight distribution – the suspension and steering have been modified significantly and major components have been relocated to better balance the increased mass of the battery pack.

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The RAV4 EV’s introduction in 2012 will also see the arrival – in key global markets – of the Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid) and a small EV commuter vehicle.

Gallery after the jump

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