There’s something missing in the electric pickup truck market. Sure, mega-power supertrucks and electric full-sizers are cool technological flexes, but the hottest truck right now isn’t full-sized, or even electric. The Ford Maverick is a segment-busting masterpiece, and although it already comes as a hybrid, there are people out there who want even more electrification. A certain Japanese automaker certainly took notice, because the Toyota EPU Concept is an electric small truck that’s so conceptually-sound, it deserves to see production.
Let’s start with the most appealing part of the Toyota EPU concept, aside from the powertrain: Size. This electric pickup truck measures just 199.6 inches from stem to stern. That’s within a tenth of an inch of the Ford Maverick, and a few inches longer than the Hyundai Santa Cruz. Roughly 200 inches is about as short as you can go with a traditional crew cab pickup truck and still have a usable bed, yet a vehicle of that length should still fit in the majority of parking spots.
As for styling, there’s a lot to like on the Toyota EPU, but also a few points of contention. I dig the sleek front fascia and wide wheel arches, and the bi-fold tailgate should make an excellent bed extender. However, the greenhouse kick-up on the rear doors could cause some problems. Not only should it add to the truck’s blind spots, outward visibility for rear seat passengers might not be brilliant either.
Moving inside, it’s impossible to ignore the left-hand-drive layout of the Toyota EPU. Considering how Japanese cars built for Japan are right-hand-drive, it’s possible that the EPU was conceived from an American point-of-view. Granted, I’m still not entirely sure about this whole yoke business, since we tried Lexus’ steer-by-wire yoke and found it intriguing but difficult to adjust to. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if any possible production model would come standard with a normal steering wheel. After all, forcing a major change on people is like swimming upstream.
This isn’t the first time Toyota has teased us with a small pickup truck. In 2007, Toyota unveiled a unibody hybrid pickup truck called the A-BAT to a surprisingly lukewarm reception. For example, Car And Driver wrote that “Hybrid powertrains and solar panels are cool ideas for the compact-pickup segment, but we encourage Toyota’s design studios to get as daring as their engineering department sometime soon.” Unsurprisingly, the A-BAT never entered production, but that feels like a result of being ahead of its time.
Cut back to the present day, and the time feels almost right for an electric compact pickup truck. The Ford Maverick is still one of the hottest vehicles on the road, and every automaker is making grand electric promises. If Toyota was bold enough to get ahead of the small electric pickup truck market, a production variant would be highly desirable.
On the other hand, small pickup trucks are frequently sought by urbanites, and charging infrastructure is still lacking in many high-density areas. For those parking in older underground facilities without so much as a household plug socket in each bay, electric vehicles still aren’t a practical choice. In this case, the EPU concept might be like its A-BAT predecessor, in that the world might need to catch up to it. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens, won’t we?
(Photo credits: Toyota)
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