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Toyota previews electric FJ Cruiser-like concept and Tacoma EV pickup

Off-road fanatics won't be left out of Toyota's electric future.

Toyota Compact Cruiser EV Concept - front 3/4 view
Toyota's nifty Compact Cruiser EV looks like a battery-powered FJ Cruiser successor. 
Noriaki Mitsubishi/N-Rak Photo Agency/Toyota

Despite showing early electrification leadership with its industry-defining hybrid models, Toyota has long been a notable EV skeptic. During a major Battery EV Strategies media briefing on Tuesday, the Japanese automaker showed ample signs it's changing its tune. The company previewed a broad portfolio of battery-powered concepts, including a pair of off-road-ready models: the Compact Cruiser EV and the Toyota Pickup EV. These two concepts are part of Toyota's pledge to launch 30 electric models globally by 2030.

Visually, the Compact Cruiser EV looks the most interesting, lending some flesh to the seemingly annual rumors of a successor to Toyota's FJ Cruiser, a cult favorite SUV that's been absent from the US market since 2014. This concept's chunky proportions also recall the Toyota FT-4X concept from the 2017 New York Auto Show, including its contrasting-color rear side panels. In fact, the latter show vehicle is probably a closer proxy for the Compact Cruiser EV, since this new vehicle appears to have more diminutive dimensions, projecting a crossover-SUV vibe instead of a truly hardcore Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco rival.

Unfortunately, Toyota is not confirming that a model looking exactly like the Compact Cruiser EV will reach showrooms. But given a global surge in the popularity of 4x4 SUVs and growing interest in more environmentally conscious ways to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, the model seems like a natural fit.

On the much more traditional end of things, the Battery EV Strategies presentation also included a peek at the Toyota Pickup EV, which looks for all the world like a battery-powered Tacoma. This midsize four-door pickup appears ready to roll onto showroom floors today. And with longstanding word that the next Tacoma platform is being developed with battery-powered derivative in mind, this brawny 4x4 feels like a sure thing. In fact, it seems this concept is a preview of both an electric pickup truck and the next-generation IC-powered Tacoma -- just open up that smoothed-out grille panel for additional cooling and, voila. Production-ready pickup.

An all-electric Tacoma would seem to make a good deal of sense for Toyota. Tacomas have long been at the head of the midsize class in terms of sales volume, and the model is widely regarded as a cornerstone of the company's profitability in North America. Building an electric version of one of its most popular, profitable models would go a long way to helping amortize the immense research and development costs associated with EVs. Plus, with growing interest around electric pickups thanks to companies like Tesla, Ford and Rivian, the time seems right for a conventionally styled electric midsizer to roll onto US and Canadian roads.

Unfortunately, Toyota hasn't shared any powertrain specifics or performance targets for the Compact Cruiser EV or the Pickup EV, let alone any projected on-sale dates. It's fair to expect that the electric pickup truck will come to market before the Compact Cruiser, and in either case, we'd expect them to arrive wearing more evocative names than the generic monikers Toyota chose to reveal on Tuesday.