Although Toyota recently confirmed that it will be placing a major emphasis on expanding its domination of the hybrid arena in the near future, the automaker also continues to believe that battery electric vehicles are destined to play a significant role in future mobility strategies as buyer acceptance levels rise. To that end, it will introduce the new Scion iQ EV here late in 2012 and deploy it to a number of campus and urban car-sharing programs.
Known in Japan as the Toyota eQ, this micro-scaled urban commuter is not destined to be one of the world's best-selling zero-emission vehicles. In fact, Toyota will build only 100 in total with 90 heading to America and none slated to end up in private hands. The automaker plans to study how the iQ EV's focused emphasis on all-around energy conservation can be effectively leveraged to further expand its corporate expertise in the sustainability area. We recently had a chance to take one for a quick drive while attending the latest Toyota Future Mobility Seminar in Denver.
To visually set it apart from the baseline Scion iQ with which it shares much platform architecture, the new iQ EV receives a number of cosmetic tweaks. In addition to being offered in either Silver or Super Red with black upper body, hood, hatch and detailing, the iQ EV features a unique front fascia that includes a concealed charging port. The well-appointed cabin features a mono-spec black-and-white motif set off with metallic- and ice-blue accents, cloth-covered heated front buckets, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and unique EV instrumentation.
To enhance its appeal to commuters, Scion iQ EV also is fitted with an HDD navigation system and a dedicated audio/video setup with a 7.0-inch color LCD screen as well as 11 standard airbags. Belted for four, the iQ EV should still be regarded as a de facto 2-passenger vehicle at its core -- albeit one that offers a serviceable 13.4 cu ft of cargo space when the baby backs of its micro rear bench are flipped forward and flat.
Powering the new Scion iQ EV is a high-output motor that makes 63 horsepower and 120 lb-ft of torque. Driving the front wheels through a single-speed transmission, it's energized by a compact, super-efficient 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack that Toyota says delivers the world's best power consumption rate. This super-clean Scion variant can reach a top speed of 78 mph and travel up to 50 miles on a single charge, although Toyota admits that latter figure is only operative under "ideal stop-and-go driving conditions" and that its real-world numbers will likely fall in the 30-40 mile range. When an electronic refill is required, it will take eight hours on an 110V outlet, but only three on a dedicated 240V line. Like its electric peers, the new Scion iQ EV also boasts a host of range-stretching design features including regenerative braking, heat-pump air conditioning with a pre-conditioning option and three driving modes -- D, S and B -- that contour power flow mapping for city driving, max acceleration and battery-regen efficiency, respectively.
While our wheel time was limited, the Scion iQ EV quickly proved itself to be quite adept at squirting through traffic on the streets of the Mile High City. The electric version of the Scion iQ, has the same compact footprint and diminutive 27.0-foot turning circle as its conventional sibling, traits that make it stunningly capable in close confines. Despite Toyota's claim of a rather leisurely 13.4 second 0-60 mph roll when in "S" mode, the car feels reassuringly quick off the line. The suspension tuning does a decent job of matching compliance with control and its electric power steering provides decent weighting and feel. Best of all, the iQ EV's regenerative braking system is commendably transparent in D and S modes.
All things considered, this new "limited-edition" Scion iQ strikes us as being pretty well suited to its intended duty cycle -- although its modest per-charge range will require users to do some pro-active planning before heading out on longer treks. No word yet on pricing for the Scion iQ EV or on potential car-sharing partners. However, Toyota says it will be making announcements on both within in the next few weeks.