Toyota's minuscule electric city car prepares for 2020 debut
You reckon the Honda E is tiny? Toyota is preparing to go tinier – if not cuter – with today's announcement of a new "ultra-compact BEV" set for release in Japan in 2020.
Making no pretense of being anything but an ultra-efficient urban getabout, this tiny electric seats two, offers a round-town range of just 100 km (62 miles) per charge, and tops out at a backstreet-friendly 60 km/h (37 mph).
Toyota sees it as part of a solution for keeping the elderly mobile, as Japan looks down the barrel of a population crisis the likes of which no other country has faced. With no significant immigration, and plummeting birth rates, Japan already has the oldest population of any country in the world, with nearly 27 percent of the population aged over 65. It's getting worse; it's estimated that every worker will be supporting one retiree by 2070, whereas back in 1970 there were 12 workers for every retiree.
With Japanese workers stretched to their limits, there's little time to look after old folks, and a huge economic incentive to find technological solutions that can keep the old timers mobile, self-sufficient and happy while a dwindling number of youngsters keep the country running.
That's the ethos with this electric car: simple, zero-maintenance, slow, safe and easy. And it's designed to work in tandem with a bunch of other bits and pieces that are also going to be on show at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show.
These include electric stand-up scooters, sit-down scooters and scooter-type front ends that connect to wheelchairs to give users slow-speed last-mile mobility in a similarly simple, fuss-free electric format.
None of this stuff is glamorous, but if it can help bring some self-determination and dignity into the lives of Japan's elderly – thus letting the younger folk keep their noses to the grindstone – then maybe it can help stave off an economic catastrophe.