During a dealer meeting held in Las Vegas on June 29th, Toyota announced a launch date of the highly anticipated Scion IQ city car with a fully electric drivetrain. While knowledge of this compact hatchback has been making the rounds of the internet for a few months, up til now Toyota had declined to offer a release date. The IQ city car has been on sale since 2008 in Japan, and has impressed critics with its novel packaging (3+1 occupants within a footprint similar to the Smart ForTwo) and refined driving characteristics for its class. With a 50 mile projected range however, the electrified Scion iQ faces stiff competition from the 80-mile Nissan Leaf, and 85 miler Mitsubishi i-MiEV. It should be noted that contemporary tests of both those cars indicate that the stated range of an EV is a very flexible figure, and highly subjective to variance in driver and environment. Nevertheless, without the MSRP it remains to be seen how Scion will position the diminutive iQ against the rest of the class.
Bigger questions concern packaging the electric drivetrain such that the iQ’s killer app of 4 seat space in a 2 seater’s shadow arrive intact. With Toyota’s recent announcement of its technology partnership with Tesla Motors, it is likely the Scion EV will bear fruit from the early stages of this relationship.The most novel aspect of the iQ (at least in gasoline form) is the â€œ3+1â€ seating arrangement. While some media characterize the iQ as a 4 seater, the 4th seat is actually quite small and designed for a small child or enhanced luggage space. Through an innovative design process at Toyota’s ED2 European design center, engineers and designers threw away preconceived notions of how to layout an interior. The result is a world first for an under 3 meter car, and so highly regarded it won a car of the year award in Japan in 2008.
The Scion iQ will also arrive with a RAV4 EV sibling, as well as the highly anticipated plug-in Prius. The RAV4 will provide balance to Toyota’s nascent EV lineup, as it is based off the highly successful and roomy crossover. Between the two EVs, the plug-in Prius will likely be most sought after advanced EV tech vehicle in the Toyota portfolio for 2012. Forums have been espousing DIY techniques to create plug in Priuses for several years, so it is likely Toyota will not have left anything to change with their fully engineered and realized model.
While Nissan can claim â€œfirstâ€ in the EV race, Toyota is bringing a gun to the knife fight with its new models. Hopefully the Scion will provide a viable alternative for consumers looking for an EV to round out a home fleet of vehicles.