Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Toyota iQ EV

Toyota debuted an electric iQ concept car at the North American International Auto Show in January. Concepts can be interesting technology, but unless the car is planned for production, it is not worth talking about outside of the auto-industry, IMHO.

The iQ electric has just made the transition from concept to planned production vehicle. Now we're talkin'.

There is little information released yet, but the production EV is expected to be launched in 2010 with styling unique from the gas version of the car that is currently in Japan and the UK.

The car is a 2-door, 3 seater was designed by Toyota in collaboration with Aston Martin. The electric version will be powered by lithium ion batteries made by Panasonic. It will be propelled by four in-wheel motors. This provides more room in the car than its small size would suggest.

The car is expected to travel up to 150km (93 miles) on a full charge. Toyota estimates that recharging should take about eight hours, but the exact time will depend on a number of variables.

Below is a quick video of the gas version of the car.

Ironically, only days after making this announcement Toyota executives dismissed the coming electric cars from Nissan and GM. Toyota's statement included the comments:
  • The time is not here for electric cars
  • Batteries aren't ready
  • Electric cars are going to be expensive, with low margins
  • Car company profits are down, now is not the best time to burn money on unproven technologies
  • The mass market is not ready for an electric car
  • Hydrogen! Toyota is developing a better alternative car technology
Those are interesting statements for a company that just announced an EV. Toyota has an enviable position in the hybrid market. One they have a vested interest in protecting. Talking down about upcoming technologies that could knock Toyota's Prius from its king of the green hill is just smart business.

However, the iQ EV is Toyota's hedge. It allows Toyota to develop expertise in EVs. If the market accepts EVs and Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi iMEV and/or the Volt begin to encroach on Toyota's market, then they can quickly respond with the iQ and possibly a plug-in Prius.

Unless driven by the competition, Toyota seems happy to shift innovation into low gear, milk the HEV, and bash the innovations of other companies. I find this ironic since the shoe was on the other foot when Toyota brought the Prius to the US.

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