After its success with hybrid technology, the logical assumption was that Toyota would jump in with both feet into development of battery-electric cars.
At first it seemed that was the course Toyota was taking, with the automaker in 2010 forming a partnership with Tesla and two years later launching a RAV4 EV. But soon after the launch of the electric SUV, Toyota surprised many by deciding that fuel cells were a better bet. It then cut its ties with Tesla and started work on the Mirai.
As many predicted, the hydrogen infrastructure necessary for fuel cells is progressing much more slowly than advancements in battery technology. Fortunately, Toyota has realized its folly and is now readying several next-generation EVs, the first of which will be previewed at this month's Tokyo Motor Show.
Toyota Ultra-Compact BEV
The first of Toyota's next-gen EVs is a minicar due on sale in Japan in late 2020. A production-ready prototype, dubbed the Ultra-Compact BEV, will be shown at the Tokyo show.
The vehicle is a tiny two-seater measuring just 98 inches in length and capable of reaching a top speed of only 37 mph. The stated range is 62 miles.
Given the specs, it's no surprise Toyota plans to position the vehicle at buyers in urban areas, where an extremely short turning circle should also prove a boon. Akihiro Yanaka, Toyota's head of development, said the vehicle is ideal for older buyers who require an easy means of getting around crowded cities.
Toyota Ultra-Compact BEV commercial version
Toyota is also developing a commercial version targeted at businesses and government organizations looking for environmentally friendly transportation solutions for the city. The commercial version will have an interior that can be configured to suit various needs, with one configuration featuring a fold-out table that can turn the vehicle into a mobile office of sorts.
Toyota is on a mission to sell a million EVs, including both battery- and fuel cell-electric models, by 2025. Most of these are expected to be battery-electric models, so Toyota is committed to offering support for the whole life of the battery. This will include recycling services for batteries to help minimize waste.
We'll have more details on Toyota's EV plans soon as the Tokyo Motor Show starts on October 23. Toyota will also use the show to present the LQ self-driving car concept. The automaker's luxury division, Lexus, will also have a production-bound EV concept at the show. For our full coverage, head to our dedicated hub.
Toyota LQ concept