Car Culture

Toyota's smallest car also to be its first electric

An electric version of the four-seater urban car is expected to hit dealerships next year. But is a 65-mile electric range enough?

The 2012 Scion iQ.
The 2012 Scion iQ. Toyota

Toyota's tiniest car could also be its first electric car in the U.S., according to news reports. The carmaker told its dealership franchise owners last month that an electric version of its Scion iQ is scheduled to hit showroom floors in 2012.

The Scion iQ is a pint-size city car currently being sold in Japan and the EU under the Toyota brand. Using a 1L engine, the iQ achieves an impressive 65 mpg. Toyota introduced the car to the North American market last year, and doubled down on the city car this year by revealing an electric prototype of the 3+1 at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Currently undergoing testing in the EU, the EV is expected to have an electric range of 65 miles.

A small car with a short range could be a tough sell, especially since there will be more competition in the electric car market next year. Currently on sale now, the 2011 Nissan Leaf seats five and achieves approximately 100 miles per charge. The electric 2012 Ford Focus and 2012 Mitsubishi i will be available starting November. The EV Focus offers a 100-mile range, while the i, which seats only four, offers an 85-mile range. The electric Smart ForTwo manages a 98-mile range.

But the electric Scion iQ's smaller range means it's sporting a smaller battery. Lithium ion batteries make up a large portion of an EV's price, and skimping on battery could translate into a cheaper price. The Mitsubishi i, which uses a 16kw lithium ion battery, retails for $20,490 after the federal tax credit of $7,500 is applied. The MSRP for the Scion iQ was not released.

If you're shopping for an EV but aren't sold on the small car, next year you'll also have the option of a crossover. Toyota told dealers that the company is on track to launch the electric version of the RAV4 around the same time in 2012, according the news sources.