The Toyota RAV4 “EV” Mode Explained (Prime vs. Hybrid)

Both the Toyota RAV4 Prime and RAV4 Hybrid have an EV mode meant to increase efficiency. Between the two models, the RAV4 EV mode works differently, so it’s important to understand the distinctions. I show the differences, explain how each works and give some helpful tips.

It doesn’t take long to see that the RAV4 Hybrid EV mode isn’t nearly as capable as the Prime.

rav4 ev mode button closeup

An Important Distinction

rav4 ev mode button
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The Toyota RAV4 is available as both a Prime plug-in hybrid and Hybrid configuration. While they are similar, there is one big difference between the two.

The RAV4 Prime is the plug-in hybrid model. It gets plugged in to charge and contains a larger battery capacity than the Hybrid.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid doesn’t get plugged in. It charges over time with the help of regenerative braking and the gas engine. It also includes a smaller electric battery than the Prime, thereby decreasing the driving range significantly.

While both RAV4 models have an EV button, they behave much differently. The RAV4 Prime operates more like an electric vehicle because of the plug-in design. To understand the differences, read on for more information.

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RAV4 Prime EV Mode

toyota rav4 prime

The RAV4 Prime debuted in the United States at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. Sales started as a 2021 model. The RAV4 Prime EV mode is just one major feature that sets this plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) apart.

How It Works

When the EV mode is engaged on the RAV4 Prime, it allows for electric-only driving. The electric motor takes over, circumventing the gas engine.

EV driving is easily canceled. When it cancels, the gas engine and electric motor get used together again. If EV driving becomes possible again, it will revert back to the EV mode.

These circumstances cause EV mode to be canceled automatically.

  • If the vehicle speed exceeds about 84 mph (135 km/h).
  • When power is needed temporarily. If you press the accelerator pedal firmly or attempt to accelerate quickly.
  • If the hybrid system temperature exceeds normal parameters. This occurs when the vehicle is parked in the sun, driven at higher speeds, climbing a steep incline, etc.
  • If the hybrid system temperature doesn’t hit minimal requirements.
  • When the cabin heater is in use with outside temperatures below around 14°F (-10°C).
  • If the windshield defogger switch is on.
  • When the system determines the gas engine is needed.

Learn more about the RAV4 Prime EV mode in the owner’s manual.


Maximum Range

The Toyota RAV4 EV mode range is up to 42 miles with the Prime model. Once the battery drains, the gas engine automatically kicks in.

The EV range can be shorter than expected if the car is driven aggressively. It also decreases when driving up hills or an abundance of accessories is used.

On the other hand, the EV range can exceed 42 miles when driving downhill because of regenerative braking. This advanced system recharges the battery and eases the burden on the electric motor.

Quick Tips

It’s easy to maximize the performance of the EV mode on the Prime. Follow these helpful tips.

  • Avoid sudden acceleration or deceleration. Drive as smoothly as possible to keep the battery at maximum capacity. EV mode automatically cancels if acceleration occurs too fast.
  • Maintain adequate speeds. EV mode works most efficiently at normal speeds.

It does take some practice to get used to maximizing the EV range. After a few times, you gain a better feel for how to make the most of the drive.

RAV4 Hybrid EV Mode

toyota rav4 hybrid

In 2019, Toyota also released the RAV4 Hybrid model. With standard four-wheel drive and a 1.6 kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery, it’s been a top choice for fuel efficiency. Learning how to use the RAV4 Hybrid EV mode helps to enhance the ride.

How It Works

The EV mode on the RAV4 Hybrid is much different than the Prime. When using the EV drive mode, electric power gets supplied by the hybrid battery, known as the traction battery. The electric motor or traction motor drives the vehicle.

The benefits of the RAV4 Hybrid EV mode are different because the battery has minimal capacity. The EV mode system also only works up to about 25 mph for short distances.

It’s beneficial when noise or gas emissions are a concern. EV mode can be used to navigate a residential area early in the morning or late at night without disturbing anyone. It’s also helpful when driving through an indoor parking lot or garage to prevent trapping the exhaust gases in an enclosed space.

Still, the RAV4 Hybrid may still produce sound when the vehicle proximity notification system is activated.

The EV drive mode may be inoperable in these conditions:

  • The hybrid system temperature is too high. Temperatures rise when parked in the sun, driving up hills or traveling at high speeds.
  • The hybrid system temperature is too low. Temperatures drop when parked for an extended period in weather of about 32°F (0°C) or lower.
  • The gas engine hasn’t warmed up yet.
  • The hybrid (traction) battery is low. This measurement is displayed on the Energy Monitor.
  • Speeds of the RAV4 Hybrid exceed about 25 mph.
  • The accelerator pedal is pressed firmly.
  • If the vehicle is climbing a hill.
  • The windshield defogger is on.

When the EV mode cannot be turned on or cancels, a buzzer sounds. There’s also a message displayed on the multi-information center.


Maximum Range

The RAV4 Hybrid EV mode range is much shorter than the Prime. EV mode can drive between a few hundred meters to about 0.6 miles (1 km).

Using the EV mode depends on whether the battery is charged. It is also dependent on the circumstances listed above that deactivate the functionality.

Quick Tips

Before using the EV mode, here are a few helpful tips to consider.

  • This mode is best used when driving in residential areas during quiet times.
  • Use this mode in indoor parking lots where noise and gas emissions matter.
  • When you need the gas engine is needed again, press the EV mode button again to cancel it.

Honestly, the EV mode on the RAV4 Hybrid is mostly a gimmick. It doesn’t last long and only reduces noise for a short time. Most people feel the RAV4 gas engine is quiet enough on its own that this mode isn’t needed.

deciding Between These RAV4 Models

Although these two RAV4 models may seem very similar because they are both hybrids, they are quite different. You’ll want to take a close look at both of these models to figure out which one is best for your situation.

Let’s run through some important differences that should be considered before you buy one of these vehicles.

Driving in EV Mode

If you’re looking for something that you can drive with only electricity, the RAV4 Prime is the most appropriate option because of its extended range and higher speed limit.

Remember, the RAV4 Prime can be driven up to 84 mph (135 km/h) in pure electric mode, while the RAV4 Hybrid can only stay in EV mode up to 25 mpg (40 km/h). Also, because of battery size, the RAV4 Prime can drive extended differences on pure battery power while the RAV4 Hybrid can’t even go a full mile. These vehicles are simply designed for different purposes.

Vehicle Price

Sure, the RAV4 Prime is more fuel-efficient than the RAV4 Hybrid, but you’ll also want to consider the vehicle purchase price when deciding whether or not the RAV4 Prime is worth buying.

If you’re looking for a RAV4 Prime, you can expect to pay $10,000-15,000 more than the RAV4 Hybrid. This includes MSRP differences and potential markup pricing because of the RAV4 Prime’s low availability.

Wait Times

RAV4s are very popular, especially the hybrid models. Unfortunately the supply of these models has not been able to keep up with the demand. This is due to a few factors, such as part shortages, labor constraints, production limits, and more.

Due to this mismatch between supply and demand, you will likely find yourself on a waiting list to purchase a RAV4.

If you’re looking for a RAV4 Prime, you can expect to wait much longer. In the USA, wait times are typically anywhere between 6 and 18 months. In other countries, this waiting list could even extend several years. On the other hand, the average wait times for the RAV4 Hybrid are typically only 1-6 months.


One of the biggest differences between both models is the method of charging. Some people want the benefits of a plug-in hybrid (the RAV4 Prime), while other people want the hybrid benefits without the hassle of plug-in charging (RAV4 Hybrid).

Frequently Asked Questions About the RAV4’s EV Mode

The RAV4 Prime is estimated to go 42 miles on a full battery in EV mode. However, certain factors may allow the vehicle to go longer, such as when recharging the battery by using regenerative braking on a downhill road. Certain factors may also cut this range short, such as aggressive driving or continuous uphill roads.

You can drive up to 84 miles per hour on EV mode in a RAV4 Prime, and approximately up to 25 miles per hour in the RAV4 Hybrid.

Yes, the RAV4 Hybrid can run on battery only, but only for a short period of time under limited conditions. Read more about the restrictions above.

The RAV4 Hybrid switches to gas around approximately 25 miles per hour, however it may switch sooner depending on certain driving conditions.

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Getting the Most Out of RAV4 EV Mode

While both the RAV4 Prime and Hybrid models have the EV mode, there’s clearly a difference between the two. When driving a RAV4 Prime, electric driving is possible for around 42 miles in perfect conditions. The RAV4 Hybrid can’t boast of that capability, making the EV mode less valuable.

Understanding how to use the Toyota EV mode makes a difference in noise and emission pollution. Before heading out on a daily commute, it’s helpful to review the tips outlined above.

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  1. JG Berson says:

    Any reason the Hybrid does not have a bigger traction battery?

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      That’s what the RAV4 Prime is. It has a larger traction battery.

      1. JG Berson says:

        I know that, but other than a bigger battery, the Prime essentially has only a built in charger.
        So why not just a bigger battery in the hybrid?

        1. RAV4 Resource says:

          It would be competing too closely with the Prime. Also with a larger battery, the car might not be able to handle charging such a battery without plugging in like the Prime.