Toyota has been rather lukewarm about EVs, despite its tie up with Tesla Motors (with whom it is developing an electric version of the RAV4) in the US. On the other hand, it does not want to allow Nissan and Mitsubishi to leapfrog into the technology driving seat by ignoring electric vehicles completely. It only has to look at its own positioning as the de facto king of the hybrid market to realize that these technologies take a while to catch on, but that if they do the rewards to be reaped are enormous.
So, Toyota is taking a tentative step into commercial EV sales with the introduction of the electric iQ in 2012. The iQ is already designed as a frugal city car, so turning this into an electric vehicle makes a lot of sense. The problem with a city car of small dimensions is that there is already enough competition for space, so what happens when you add a battery pack to the equation? Toyota has solved this with the new flat battery pack from the plug in Prius which slots neatly under the floor, thus allowing the passenger compartment to be unimpeded with additional intrusions. The iQ is a marvel of packaging, so what you have here is a frugal, zero-emissions city car with a larger car feel.
Following Mitsubishi’s lead with the i-MiEV, Toyota is planning to start with fleet sales and then move into the consumer market after the initial teething issues have been ironed out there. Its smaller size should no doubt result in a lower retail price than competitors like the Leaf, so it looks like this 65-mile range EV could be a handy commuter car option when it goes on sale.
I am looking forward to the full reveal at the Geneva Motor Show to find out more.