Toyota iQ EV: The Electric Car You'll Never See (Live Photos)

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When a major automaker introduces a new electric car, you'd expect a major event with plenty of hoopla.

But at last week's Paris Auto Show, the Toyota iQ EV--a battery electric conversion of the minicar it sells in the States as the Scion iQ--was pretty much ignored by Toyota executives.

Instead, they launched the all-new 2013 Toyota Auris and Auris Hybrid, which are effectively hatchback and wagon models of the new Toyota Corolla sedan we'll see next year.

The Auris may not be sold in the States--it's the same size as the Toyota Matrix hatchback--but it was the company's main focus in Paris.

The little electric iQ, however, was represented by a single car on one corner of the Toyota stand, with a white body and a black roof. It was posed with the inevitable charging station plugged in.

That's because last Monday, Toyota announced that it wouldn't launch the iQ EV as a production model after all.

Instead, it will build just 100 samples of the car, essentially no more than a test fleet.

The specs on the Toyota iQ EV include a stated 53-mile (85-kilometer) range from its 11.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which weighs 366 pounds (166 kg).

The battery will recharge in 3 to 4 hours using Level 2 charging, and the iQ EV also includes CHAdeMO quick charging that will recharge the small pack to 80 percent in just 15 minutes.

The front wheels are driven by an electric motor--no peak power output was given--but the car's 0-to-62-mph time is quoted as 14.3 seconds.

Its maximum speed is 78 mph (125 km/h).

For those reasons, we suspect that the electric iQ wouldn't prove to be a very compelling vehicle in the U.S. market--though possibly it could be an effective competitor to the electric Smart ForTwo in Europe and Asia.

With Smart preparing to launch its ED3, the third generation of the electric ForTwo, both in Europe and the U.S., perhaps Toyota felt that company might soak up what little appetite there is for tiny electric minicars.

But more likely, Toyota--a company that simply doesn't believe that plug-in cars have a future, especially pure battery electric vehicles--just isn't interested in its littlest electric car.

It has built more than half of the world's hybrid cars, based on a high-stakes technology gamble it took 20 years ago, and electrics aren't a priority if they would cut into hybrid sales.

So the little electric iQ was left to languish in its corner, with its global debut no more than a fading memory.

Poor little thing.


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Comments (6)
  1. It's ok, I remember the late 90's auto shows where there were no electric cars, then the early 00's when there were only a few weak 40 mile range EVs usuall located in the basements next to the bathrooms. EV's are coming and all the majors know it. The problem is the big companies don't want to be satisfied with a small market share, the want it all. The Mini onl satisfies 90 percent of dail driving but only 2 percent of the public. These are perfect for a niche, the inner-city drivers who just need a little car to travel 5 blocks, or 10 mpd. Bruce Gast

  2. The iQ is a bit bigger than a ForTwo, but lacks power & range which place it's fun factor below that of EV competition. ForTwo has 0-60 mph of 11.5 sec. (10.2 for Brabus Electric Drive special edition) vs.14.3. Differences in performance somewhat useful in quantifing expectations of a drive on a steep inner-city hill with a mate & baggage (as it's difficult to go 60mph in most city traffic).

    The smaller 11.6kWh battery of iQ would receive fewer incentives in many markets, making it pricer purchase. Additionally iQ's range is closer to a Twizy (80km/50mi), than to a ForTwo (145km / 90mi).

    Hopefully gone are the days of underpowered, short-range electric vehicles. It's great to see more fun competive options.

  3. The iQ would have had to face competition from the just announced VW E-Up (formally blue-e-motion concept). With a range of 130 km (80 miles) from E-Up's 18kWh battery and 60kW (80hp) motor to give it a brisk 11sec 0-60mph acceleration. E-Up sounds like a fun city EV.

    I hope Toyota's engineers & designers are hard at work determining what will be the next model offered after the RAV4!

  4. Brian, please work your connections with VW to get the E-Up available to those of us in N. America... Just kidding, of course, but I'm also much more interested in VW/Audi offerings here than most other OEMs. And, although much can change quickly, of course, the VW E-Up looks promising.

  5. @Robok: The VW Up was not designed to be Federalized, and won't be. We don't even (yet) have the VW Polo, a subcompact, let alone a minicar.

    I loved the Up when I drove a Euro version, but see p. 2 of the drive report for why bringing it to the States would likely ruin it:

  6. John, thanks. I actually read the Up review when you wrote it and remembered your comments. I know it's not realistic to bring it here because it would have to be significantly redesigned in some areas, but I'm both kidding and serious, to the extent that I hope this or a future similar car gets here, too. It's only eight inches shorter than a MINI and close to a 500, so there's a market. It's growing, too, if not large yet.

    The Polo makes no sense to bring here now. VW usually gets crushed on pricing for small vehicles here and the Polo is nothing special, IMHO. Not enough to differentiate itself from the Golf, even if it's smaller.

    Or better yet, avoid VW quality issues by hiring away their great designers... Uh, GM, anyone listening?

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