Toyota San Francisco, LEED, green car dealership, green building, sustainable building, test drive, Toyota RAV4 EV, RAV4, electric car, green car, green transportation, Laura K. Cowan

We don’t need much of an excuse to test drive any electric car, but we’re loving a lot about this, from the fact that the SF Toyota dealership is a remodeled 1800s horse barn that retains 100 percent of the original structure, that 75 percent of the construction waste was recycled, and that by the end of 2013, Toyota will have 36 dealerships LEED certified across the U.S.

When you drive most smaller electric cars, you can expect the total vehicle range to drop in cold weather, or when you turn the heater on, or when–oh, it gets tiring. These cars do their best, but this issue is what led Toyota to put uncompromised daily performance over everything else in developing the RAV4 EV. And they’ve done it! You get 100-130 miles of total range, and whether you drive fast, slow, turn the heater on, or, say, show up on an absurdly cold April day in Michigan to see what a RAV4 EV can handle, it holds the line at anywhere from 90-100 miles, and doesn’t drop when you start to drive. On the highway, still holding. On the back roads, still going. They have even developed two Eco modes for the HVAC system that will help keep the cabin comfortable in all weather without wrecking your range.

Bad news? You MUST quick-charge this baby. It takes 40 hours to charge it on a standard outlet, so you will need that range if you’re traveling. But on a quick-charger the RAV4 EV can be juiced up in just a couple hours to 80 percent, or 100 percent in a few more. And because they thought to put the battery pack in the floor Tesla style (no, really, they worked with Tesla to design it), the cargo room is enormous. Now for the bad news. First, this is a homely little car, due to the fact that the drag has been cut to .3 from .35 to make this the most aerodynamic SUV on the market. Unfortunately, he RAV4 EV is only available in California for the moment. And here’s the kicker: It costs a whopping $50,000. But if practical and green is your style, you’ll love it all the same. We developed a soft spot for it.

+ Toyota