Jul 082011

For more than a year, Toyota has slowly been dropping first hints and then official tidbits regarding the upcoming launch of an all-electric version of the Japanese automaker’s natty little ultra-compact city car runabout. Particularly unusual for such a tiny car, be it petrol-powered or an uber-green version packing just batteries, Toyota is promising this one to the Americans.

The iQ has been around since 2008, when it was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show. The car that emerged, first going on sale in Japan in October of that year, was remarkably close in terms of design to the concept on which it is based.

Even in its internal-combustion version, the iQ is a relatively green form of motoring. It’s less than three metres long and tips the scales at a dry weight of just 860kgs, making it a real featherweight.

Sure, the original BMC Mini only weighed 617kgs when it was born back in 1959, but safety standards and ever-tightening regulations mean that even the Mini gained another 70kgs by the time it ended production in 2000.

Toyota IQ - Petrol Engine - Similar to Electric Version

Toyota IQ - Petrol Engine - Similar to Electric Version

Given that the iQ has to meet some pretty rigorous targets in terms of accident protection, the Toyota iQ is doing well to come in at such a low weight. Today’s world won’t tolerate a cheap and cheerful car if it will just fold up when a lorry or bus has an over-eager sniff of its rear bumper.

The iQ, which is marketed under the Toyota badge in most global markets and will be known as the Scion iQ when it appears in US showrooms next year, has been powered by a range of engines displacing between 1.0 litre and 1.3 litres. Car nerds may already know that Aston Martin’s upmarket Cygnet city car is based on the iQ.

But we digress. The big news is that yet another viable mass-market electric vehicle is about to make its entrance onto the world stage.

As we get closer to the launch date, we are greeted with news that Toyota recently met with more than 1,200 dealers in the USA at a summit in Las Vegas.

The carmaker still failed to specify exactly when the all-electric iQ will officially go on sale, however. It did promise that we won’t have to wait more than 18 months.

The electric iQ is expected to boast a battery range of 50 miles. This could make it a tough sale against larger, more capable competitors like the Nissan Leaf , which officially manages 73 miles on a single charge.

Nissan Leaf - All-Electric Car

Nissan Leaf - All-Electric Car

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi’s i (yes, that’s right, it’s just called the ‘i’) can allegedly stretch one battery charge out to 83 miles, if driving conditions are ideal. Norway-based electric-car manufacturer THINK says its City four-seater will do 100 miles on one charge but we’re still waiting to see if THINK can itself survive bankruptcy.

So there you have it. Less than two years before Toyota has officially promised to sell an electric version of the iQ, we have no confirmation of the launch date, price or availability.

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