PHOTO CAPTION: E-Com was the last dedicated electric car designed by Toyota

Toyota Announces Electric Concept Car

New Toyota concept car to be debuted at 2009 Detroit Auto Show will be battery powered.

Published: 23-Dec-2008

With what has to be the most cryptic press release ever to emerge from Toyota's Torrance, California-based media group, the company announced in two short sentences that it will be revealing a battery-powered electric concept car at the 2009 North America International Auto Show in Detroit. At the same time, it released a close-up view of a logo that the car will carry. No other details of the car were revealed.

The last dedicated electric car the company manufactured was the E-Com, a small two-seat runabout, built in limited numbers during the late 1990s. Toyota also manufactured some 1,500 RAV4 EVs, which were battery versions of the company's popular small sport utility vehicle. Several hundred continue to operate in California, Florida and elsewhere. These vehicles are powered by NiMH batteries.

Through its joint venture with Panasonic in Japan, Toyota is developing advanced lithium ion batteries for future hybrids and presumably also for electric cars. Earlier this year, it also formed a special battery research unit to identify and investigate more powerful chemistries beyond lithium, in the hope of finding batteries that allow electric cars to drive further and last longer.

From the lessons learned on the RAV4 and E-Com, it can be assumed the concept car will be a four-passenger model that is intended to be a urban commuter, which could someday compete against a short list of other electric cars in the works from companies like Nissan, Tesla, Pininfarina-Bollore,Think and BYD, the latter slated to debut a production battery version of its F3DM plug-in hybrid in 2009.

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Ray Lane, managing partner of venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Caufield and Byers, which has invested in Think, believes Think could eventually sell as many as 30,000 to 50,000 City cars a year.

The production electric vehicle to be introduced in 2010 will have a unique bodystyle and is not based on any existing Nissan model, unlike the technology 'mule' pictured above.

The 100-mile range electric car has been operating with Japanese power companies for the last two years.


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