TORRANCE, CA – During development of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, engineers sought to make the electric vehicle just as safe as any other Toyota model on the road. That task meant creating an underbody design ensuring that, in the event of a crash, the high-voltage battery’s energy remains contained and poses no threat to vehicle occupants and first responders.

This endeavor, the focus of a new corporate video, resulted in 13 new patents.

Project team members developed what they call a pyrotechnic safety switch – essentially a small guillotine that breaks the circuit to prevent current from flowing out of the battery after a collision, explained Jesse Buehler, team leader for vehicle safety and crashworthiness at Toyota.

“What that means for the occupant is that within a few milliseconds after impact, all of the current will stop flowing out of the battery,” Buehler explained. “And within a few seconds after impact, you won’t have high voltage anywhere within the vehicle, except for the battery itself.”

To further protect the battery from impact during a collision, the team developed a system in which ramps guide a motor compartment sub-frame downward to isolate the battery.

The development project required numerous crash tests, including some that involved flooding different electrical components.

The RAV4 EV is the product of a unique collaboration with Tesla Motors, spurred by Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corp. The RAV4 EV combines a Tesla designed and produced battery and electric powertrain with Toyota’s most popular SUV model.

To view the Toyota video, click here.

Last month, Toyota announced special financing and a customer lease option for the 2012 RAV4 EV. The all-electric RAV4 EV has an EPA-rated range of 103 miles, 78 city miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), 74 highway MPGe and 76 combined MPGe.

The RAV4 EV went on sale in September through select California dealers, focusing on major metropolitan markets. The vehicle has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $49,800, and RAV4 EV customers have the option of a purchase or lease program. Sales volume is planned for approximately 2,600 units through 2014.

Under the hood of the RAV4 EV

Under the hood of the RAV4 EV