Toyota's cheap two-seater EV plan for 2021 isn't what you'd expect

Toyota reportedly plans to launch a tiny electric car in 2021, a two-seater aiming for a diminutive footprint along with a matching price tag. While not expected to have significant range in the grand scheme of EVs, it'll help fill in gaps in Toyota's line-up as Japan focuses on a wholesale shift to electrification.

Despite that goal – which will push for either full-electric or hybrid power for new vehicles by the mid-2030s – Toyota's range is looking fairly light on EVs. Although the automaker was instrumental in popularizing the hybrid, with its Prius a best-seller, fully-electric cars have been less forthcoming.

This new, as-yet-unnamed model isn't going to shift that especially, being fairly niche in its focus. The EV will be a compact two-seater, fitting into Japan's "kei" car category for very small vehicles, The Nikkei reports. It'll focus on a small turning radius and ease of use, it's suggested.

That should make it popular among young, first-time drivers, and older users, according to what are said to be Toyota's predictions. Urban and mountain area use is the goal, reportedly, where the roughly 100 kilometer (62 mile) range that the EV is said to offer will be more in keeping with driving demands.

Initially, Toyota plans to keep the launch fairly low-scale. In fact, the 2021 debut is only expected to result in around 100 sales, according to the report, first among business clients and local governments. They'll pay around 1.6 million to 1.7 million yen ($15,500 to $16,400) before subsidies.

However beyond that, Toyota's goal is apparently to expand sales to the general public. That won't be until 2022, however. Chatter of the EVs – including both business and consumer versions – first began in mid-2019, along with hints of six proposed cars for global sales.

Just as important will be the battery tech. This first EV will rely upon a lithium-ion pack that has been built by Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, which just so happens to be a joint-venture between Panasonic and Toyota.

Small electric cars aren't atypical, though many amount to little more than variations on covered golf carts. More mainstream attempts, such as the electric Smart Fortwo, have struggled, with relatively high prices and small range hampering adoption. That hasn't, however, stopped Toyota from experimenting with compact EV ideas in the past.

One of the most memorable was the Toyota i-ROAD, a two-seater tilting electric trike. Designed as a concept in 2013, and then released for test-drives the following year, Toyota rolled the EV out for a limited urban trial program in Tokyo in 2015. However a full commercial launch failed to transpire.

Instead, we've seen the Lexus UX 300e carry the full-electric torch, though only in very limited numbers to-date. Sales of the in-demand EV are only taking place in Japan, with potential owners picked by a lottery process. According to The Nikkei, only 135 examples of the Lexus have actually been sold since October.