The issue of transportation and mobility is a key concern of Dan Sturges and Wheelchange, as indicated last Friday. This past Tuesday, at least one of the notions that he is a proponent of—car sharing—came to light during a Toyota press conference at the 2012 North American International Auto Show, the primary purpose of which was to reveal the production version of the Prius c, a city vehicle (again, one of Sturges’ interests) that is said to have a city fuel economy rating of 53 mpg in the city, which makes it the fuel economy leader for vehicles that don’t have a plug.
However, listen to Jim Lentz, president & COO, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.:
“In our continuing effort to promote electrification, we will launch the Scion iQ EV and the second-generation RAV4 EV this year in small volumes. These vehicles are not ‘coming to market’ in the typical sense.
“Rather, they are meant to gauge consumer preferences, range requirements and use patterns. To do so, we are taking two very different tracks.
“With a range of less than 50 miles, the iQ EV will be aimed specifically at short-distance urban car-sharing programs.
“The RAV4 EV will be quite different. First, it will be the only all-electric SUV on the market…with all the style, cargo capacity and performance of the RAV4 V6. Powered by a high performance Tesla drive system, the RAV4 EV will offer, on average, a driving range of well over 100 miles between charges.
“Over the next three years, our goal is to grow consumer interest and trust in electrification with this two-front approach.”
And Toyota has more to come in this advanced mobility arena. Lentz said that by 2015 they will have launched a hydrogen fuel-cell powered four-door midsize sedan.
But what is certainly interesting is the way they are bringing the iQ EV to market. From the start, the vehicle was designed to be a city car. Here they are really underlining that fact by saying, in effect, (1) we know that this is something that is meant to get around town, so the 50-mile range is completely sufficient, so we’re not going to pretend otherwise, and (2) we understand that in many metropolitan areas, from Boston to Austin to Portland, car sharing—not car ownership—is becoming an increasingly viable approach for people, so we are going to support that with a city car.
Has an OEM ever made such a commitment to something other than building cars that are meant for individuals? (One might argue that there are cars in rental fleets, but that isn’t the original objective for their existence as seems to be the case with the Scion iQ EV.)
In addition to which: Note the reference to the use of the Tesla drive system in the RAV4 EV. While some people might be somewhat skeptical about the on-going viability of Tesla, Toyota, which has invested in the company, certainly is unlikely to publically announce the use of a technology from a company that it is not confident in.