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Monday, January 12, 2009

$20,000 electric car: Toyota FT-EV


The Toyota FT-EV could be on the road for around $20,000. Photo Gallery Link

Toyota has unveiled a budget priced electric car that can be driven up to 80km without using a drop of petrol...

Just don’t drive further than that otherwise you’ll need a long extension cord.

The car could be sold in Australia from as little as $20,000 within three years, although this is not yet confirmed.

The Japanese maker fired the first shot on the eve of the 2009 Detroit motor show, revealing its surprise future model in the hometown of North America’s three biggest car makers.

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of the Toyota FT-EV, writes PAUL GOVER from Detroit. The plug-in concept car is a seismic shift by the world's largest carmaker and the next step from its ambitious move into the hybrid world. Read more here...

Toyota’s announcement came as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler continue their fight for survival and calls for assistance from the US Government, and as the global economic crisis tightens its grip on the car industry.

The concept car is called the FT-EV and is based on a model called the iQ, which recently went on sale in Japan.

The tiny Toyota is bigger than a Smart city car but smaller than most other hatchbacks and can be fully recharged in a little more than seven hours.

It is due to go into production in Japan in 2012 and it could be on sale in Australia soon after.

“We are certainly looking at,” said Toyota Australia’s product planning manager Peter Evans. “It’s a fascinating vehicle. It is definitely one of our priorities for the Australian market. I think you will start to see a major shift towards these sorts of vehicles from 2012 and beyond.”

Toyota would not speculate on the retail price of its new electric car so far out from launch, but a similarly-sized petrol-powered hatchback costs about $15,000, and an electric motor and battery pack would likely add about $5000 to the cost of the car, say industry analysts, bringing the total close to $20,000.

Significantly, on battery power alone the tiny Toyota will travel almost 20km further than the Chevrolet Volt electric car to be made by General Motors.

However, the Toyota must be recharged after 80km, whereas the Volt has a petrol generator which extends total driving range up to 1000km.

The Toyota electric car is a tiny four-seater hatchback whereas the Volt is about the size of a Holden Astra sedan.

Both cars are due in Australia about the same time – by the end of 2012 – if all goes to plan.

A spokesman for Toyota in North America said last year’s spike in the price of petrol was no accident, and worse is to come.

In a statement issued to media, Irv Miller, Toyota Motor Sales group vice president, environmental and public affairs, said: “[The spike in the price of oil] 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.”

The comments echo those made by the boss of General Motors, Rick Wagoner, at last year’s Detroit motor show. In his address to media he said: “There is no doubt demand for oil is outpacing supply at a rapid pace, and has been for some time now. As a business necessity and an obligation to society we need to develop alternative sources of propulsion.”

Mr Wagoner cited US Department of Energy figures which show the world is consuming roughly 1000 barrels of oil every second of the day, and yet demand for oil is likely to increase by 70 per cent over the next 20 years.

Last year, Toyota announced it planned to sell one million petrol-electric hybrids annually from 2010, starting with at least 10 new hybrid vehicles.

Toyota is also trialing a large number of plug-in hybrid vehicles with fleet customers later this year, deploying across North America 500 Prius cars adapted with plug-in technology and using lithium-ion batteries.

Battery technology has been one of the biggest hurdles for electric cars because they are sensitive to extreme temperatures, are heavy and bulky to accommodate and costly and time-consuming to produce.

The 2009 Detroit Motor Show