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Detroit show: Toyota targets affordable EV

Baby EV: Toyota's iQ-based FT-EV concept points to a new micro electric city car by 2012.

iQ micro concept set to spark electric vehicle market

12 Jan 2009


TOYOTA has unveiled an electric concept version of its acclaimed iQ micro car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, with the aim of releasing it in the United States by 2012 for under $25,000.

While the official line from Toyota Australia is that “we are looking at it”, there are no plans yet to bring the production version of this car to Australia, according to a spokesman.

High costs and a small market are believed to be against the electric iQ’s chances of landing in Australia in the next three years.

Dubbed FT-EV Concept, it uses a lithium ion battery set with an energy capacity of 11kWh to produce 45kW of power and 160Nm of torque in an instant.

Aimed at the inner-urban dweller who might otherwise use public transport, the FT-EV has a charging time of 7.5 hours using a 100 to 120 volt charge and just 2.5 hours for electricity grids on a 200 to 240 volt charge like Australia.

Toyota has indicated that the diminutive electric car will have a cruising range of up to 80km and a top speed of 112km/h.

Like the petrol and turbo-diesel iQ models being rolled out in Japan and Europe, the FT-EV Concept is expected to continue its unique 3+1 seating layout that sets the 3.05 metre three-door hatchback apart from the slightly smaller Smart ForTwo by Mercedes-Benz.

8 center imageThe ForTwo is also heading for an electric future, with the EV ForTwo ED (for Electric Drive) slated for limited release in Europe next year after making its debut in the last Paris Motor Show in October.

There are no official plans to bring the ED to Australia either, although a Mercedes-Benz insider indicated that importing the electrified ForTwo was a top priority.

Toyota says the FT-EV “… signals Toyota’s intention to broaden the scope of its advanced alternative-fuel vehicle development.” Irv Miller, Toyota Motor Sales group vice president, environmental and public affairs, said there was a place for an affordable electric urban vehicle, even in the aftermath of the global economic downturn and the resulting drop in oil prices, which has cut the cost of petrol sharply.

“Now, more than ever, while we are so focused on the pressing issues of the moment, we cannot lose sight of our future,” he said.

“Nowhere is this more important than with our industry’s duty and commitment to provide true sustainable mobility with vehicles that significantly reduce fuel consumption, our carbon footprint and overall greenhouse gases.

“(The high price of petrol) was a brief glimpse of our future. We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size. This kind of vehicle, electrified or not, is where our industry must focus its creativity.” Toyota is quick to add that the FT-EV is just one component of its sustainable mobility strategy.

This will continue to include conventional nickel-metal hydride battery-employing petrol-electric hybrid vehicles such as the Prius and Lexus RX400h that Toyota now refers to as its “core powertrain technology”, along with PHV plug-in hybrid vehicles using Lithium Ion batteries by next year.

The latter will kick off with 500 PHV Prius in the last quarter of 2009 for market and engineering analysis.

They will go to global fleet-lease customers primarily “… to monitor the performance and durability of the first-generation lithium-ion battery, while offering real-world feedback on how future customers might respond to the plug-in process,” according to Toyota.

Expect up to 10 new hybrid models from the company in the next few years – although not all earmarked for Australia.

All are part of the Toyota’s plan to sell one million petrol-electric hybrids annually by the early part of the next decade.

“Future customers will have high expectations for these emerging technologies. This Prius PHV fleet program is a key first step in confirming how and when we might bring large numbers of plug-in hybrids to global markets,” Mr Miller stated.

“Our business is no longer about simply building and selling cars and trucks. It is about finding solutions to mobility challenges today and being prepared for more daunting challenges in our very near future,” he added.

Read more:

Toyota Oz bids for iQ

First look: Toyota thinks petite at Paris

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