Skip to main content

Toyota has a new electric car for you — and it’s about the size of a golf cart

At what point does a car become so small that it’s not really a car anymore? Toyota is pushing that boundary with its latest electric car. Set to debut at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota’s Ultra-Compact BEV (for “battery electric vehicle”) is so small that it’s practically a golf cart.

The two-seat Ultra-Compact BEV was designed for drivers who primarily make short-distance trips, according to Toyota. The target market includes the elderly, newly licensed drivers, or businesspeople visiting local customers, the automaker explained in a press release. The vehicle has a maximum range of 100 kilometers (62 miles) per charge, and a top speed of just 60 kph (37.2 mph).

Toyota thinks there will be a big market for tiny electric cars. In addition to retail customers, Toyota believes these vehicles could be used by municipalities as a zero-emission alternative to more conventional forms of transportation. Considering that New York City traffic cops already drive Smart cars, it’s not the craziest idea. Toyota said it has partnered with approximately 100 corporate and government entities on potential uses for vehicles like the Ultra-Compact BEV.

Hydrogen fuel cells were previously Toyota’s zero-emission technology of choice (and remain a big part of its future plans), but Japan’s largest automaker has warmed to battery-powered vehicles. When the Ultra-Compact BEV launches in 2020, Toyota also plans to roll out a whole new business model designed to increase sales of electric cars. That includes reuse and recycling of battery packs after their initial automotive use, according to Toyota. Several automakers are working on so-called “second-life” uses of electric-car battery packs, including using the packs for stationary energy storage.

Toyota did not mention plans to sell the Ultra-Compact BEV in the United States, and would likely face regulatory issues if it did. The Ultra-Compact BEV would likely be classified as a neighborhood electric vehicle in the U.S., meaning it wouldn’t be considered road legal by the federal government. Some states allow neighborhood electric vehicles and other smaller vehicles — such as golf carts and ATVs — on public roads. Toyota could also market the car for use on private property at retirement communities, colleges, or other large, enclosed campuses.

The Ultra-Compact BEV isn’t even Toyota’s smallest electric vehicle. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Toyota will also deploy 300 “personal mobility devices.” These are transformable scooters that can be configured for standing or seated riding, or even attached to a wheelchair. Toyota is also cooking up an electric car concept called the LQ that uses artificial intelligence to monitor occupants’ stress levels.

Editors' Recommendations

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
Tesla’s new million-mile battery could finally make electric cars affordable

Tesla plans to debut low-cost electric car batteries that can last up to a million miles and could make electric Tesla models the same price or even less than a car run by gasoline. 

These low-cost batteries would first appear in Tesla’s Model 3 in China later this year or early 2021. Other markets, like North America, would follow after, according to an exclusive report from Reuters. 

Read more
GM postpones the reveal of its new electric Hummer
GMC Hummer EV teaser

GM is rescheduling its reveal of the GMC Hummer EV, an electric version of “super truck.”

The debut, originally scheduled for May 20, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced Wednesday, April 29.

Read more
Honda will use General Motors technology to build two electric cars
GM Ultium EV platform

Honda and General Motors are setting aside their differences to engineer electric vehicles together. Their announcement adds a bullet point to the growing list of alliances formed to offset the sky-high costs of developing battery technology.

The Japanese company will build two electric models on the Ultium platform its American partner introduced in March 2020. There's no word yet on what they'll look like, or what segment of the market they'll compete in. Anything is possible because the architecture -- the chassis, the battery pack, and the motor -- is being designed to be as modular as can be. It's not too far-fetched to assume at least one of the two EVs will be an SUV -- the segment is hugely popular right now, and it's going to get incredibly crowded in the early 2020s.

Read more