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Toyota looks to electric car business

Toyota shows off the FT-EVII electric concept car at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

Toyota FT-EVII
The Toyota FT-EVII is a new electric concept car based on the iQ platform. Automotive News

Although a leader in hybrid cars, generally conservative Toyota has seemed uninterested in developing electric cars--until now. At the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota unveiled the FT-EVII, an electric car concept.

Toyota FT-EVII controls
Toyota does away with a traditional steering wheel in favor of modern art. Automotive News

In putting together the FT-EVII, Toyota used its own off-the-shelf technologies, such as the iQ platform and components from its Synergy hybrid system. Although not on sale in the U.S., gasoline- and diesel-powered Toyota iQs are sold in Japan and the U.K. For the power train, Toyota went to lithium ion batteries for the FT-EVII, as opposed to the nickel-metal-hydride power pack from its current hybrid vehicles.

Where many electric cars in development, such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiev, are specified to get about 100 miles range, Toyota only proposes 56 miles for the FT-EVII, and a top speed of 62 mph. These figures limit its use to sprawling metropolises, such as Tokyo, London, and New York.

Toyota also wanted to break away from traditional notions of automotive performance, so did away with a conventional steering wheel or foot pedals. Instead, the FT-EVII gets a weird-looking yoke, a piece of sculpture that supports an instrument cluster, navigation device, and a cup holder.

Toyota electric drive badge
Toyota modified its hybrid badge, replacing the blue inset with a yellow one. Automotive News

The FT appellation, which we previously saw when Toyota announced the FT-86 concept, also on display at the Tokyo Motor Show, stands for Future Technology. We expect to see many more FT concept cars from Toyota in the coming years.