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Toyota powers up EV program in Europe

Charged and ready: Toyota's iQ electric vehicle is set for Euro trials next year.

Electric iQ set for 2011 trials in Europe as Toyota joins EV race

23 Nov 2010

TOYOTA will begin European electric vehicle trials of its iQ-based FT-EV city car from next year ahead of its sales launch in the United States in 2012.

The world’s biggest car-maker also confirmed overnight that it will start selling a fuel-cell-powered hybrid car from 2015, while also accelerating research on promising new battery technologies, including solid state and metal-air devices that might deliver much greater energy performance than the current best lithium-ion batteries.

The announcement came just days after Toyota unveiled an electric-powered version of its RAV4 at the Los Angeles motor show. Developed with new partner Tesla Motors, the RAV4 EV is also earmarked for sale in the US from 2012 alongside the FT-EV.

Toyota Australia public relations manager Mike Breen told GoAuto that the Australian subsidiary had no plans to introduce the FT-EV, either in trials or for sale.

“You never say never, but at the moment we have no plans for it,” he said.

8 center imageFrom top: Toyota iQ FT-EV, Toyota RAV4 EV and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle.

Mr Breen said Toyota Australia was concentrating on its trials of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle, which is expected to go on sale in 2012.

The plug-in Prius is one of 11 new hybrid vehicles to be launched by the Japanese giant before the end of 2012 with an annual sales target of 50,000 cars, mainly in Japan.

Although the all-electric iQ FT-EV is confirmed for US sale from 2012, Toyota says it is also looking at launching it in Europe, Japan and China.

An unspecified number of FT-EV trial vehicles will be tested in real-world environments in Europe in 2011, although exact locations were not announced.

The FT-EV concept – a competitor for Mitsubishi’s already-launched i-MiEV – was unveiled at the 2009 Detroit motor show, as a two-seat runabout with a range of 80km.

An updated version, the FT-EV2, was shown at the Tokyo motor show later that year. This version not only gained more transparent panels and electric-powered sliding doors but an extra 10km of range – to 90km – and two more seats.

In the first concept, the rear seats had been removed to make way for the battery pack, but re-engineering the battery storage allowed the seats to be restored for greater practicality.

Toyota is believed to have tested an iQ BEV (battery electric vehicle) with a range of 150km.

Powered by an 11kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor generating 45kW of power and 160Nm of torque, the concept is said to be capable of being charged in just 2.5 hours using an Australian-style 240-volt household outlet.

Top speed is said to be up to 110km/h, which in European terms effectively excludes autobahn travel.

The announcement of the European EV trials was made in a Toyota update on progress of its EV program, which includes the development of a fuel-cell hybrid sedan for 2015 launch.

The company said the car would debut in markets with a suitable fuel supply infrastructure, namely Europe, Japan and North America.

Toyota also said it was investing in research and development of next-generation batteries beyond the lithium-ion type of the Prius Plug-in “to bring about the big advances in performance that will be needed for electric-powered eco-cars to succeed in the mass market”.

It said it had set up a new division with 100 researchers in January to study next-generation battery production.

“The options being investigated include solid-state batteries, where Toyota has made progress in overcoming performance and packaging issues, and metal-air batteries which have the potential to provide a much higher energy density than the lithium-ion type,” the company statement said.

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