Toyota, the Japanese automotive giant, has long been a leader in the utility vehicle segment with its HiLux ute. Now, the burning question on everyone’s mind is: Will there be an electric version of the Toyota HiLux? Let’s dive into the current developments and future possibilities.
Testing the Waters with Electric Prototypes
Toyota has shown a strong interest in exploring an electric HiLux. A unique electric HiLux prototype, crafted in Thailand, was shipped to Australia for rigorous testing by Toyota’s local engineering team. After its Australian stint, this prototype joined Toyota’s global ‘demonstration fleet’ of battery-powered vehicles. However, the journey from prototype to production is complex and not yet certain.
A Multi-Pathway Approach to Emissions Reduction
Emmanuel Beaune, head of Toyota Motor Europe’s light commercial vehicles division, shed light on the company’s strategy in an interview with Top Gear. Toyota isn’t putting all its eggs in the electric basket; instead, it’s exploring a variety of reduced-emissions solutions, including those that retain traditional petrol or diesel engines. “It’s too early to comment on an electric Hilux today. There are some investigations, but I cannot say more,” said Mr. Beaune.
Hydrogen and Mild-Hybrid Variants in the Mix
Adding to its diverse approach, Toyota has also developed a hydrogen-powered HiLux prototype in the UK and unveiled a HiLux with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. Unlike full hybrids, which can drive on electric power alone, the mild-hybrid HiLux, branded as a hybrid in Europe, uses a small electric motor-generator to assist the engine, aiming for a 10% reduction in fuel consumption.
Toyota Australia’s Hybrid Naming Convention
In Australia, Toyota distinguishes between full hybrids and mild-hybrids. The company reserves the ‘hybrid’ badge for vehicles that can operate solely on electric power, like its current range of full hybrids that offer significant fuel savings. Therefore, the electrically-assisted HiLux won’t be marketed as a hybrid in Australia.
A Glimpse into the Future: More Hybrid Variants Expected
Kwinten Sijs, a senior manager at Toyota Professional, hinted at the possibility of more hybrid variants of the HiLux with a greater focus on electric power, in a conversation with Autocar. While there’s no concrete plan for alternative powertrains beyond the mild-hybrid version, Toyota is certainly considering it as part of its multi-pathway approach.
The Next-Generation HiLux: A Hybrid Possibility?
The next-generation HiLux, expected to align more closely with the North American-market Toyota Tacoma, might feature a turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with hybrid assistance, similar to the new US-market Toyota LandCruiser 250 Series. This setup could offer a balance between traditional power and hybrid efficiency.
Conclusion: An Electrified HiLux on the Horizon?
While Toyota’s exploration into an electric HiLux is promising, the path to a production version is still shrouded in uncertainty. With its commitment to a variety of reduced-emissions solutions, Toyota is positioning itself to meet the future demands of the automotive market, whether it be through electric, hydrogen, or hybrid technologies. For now, HiLux enthusiasts and eco-conscious consumers alike can only wait and watch as Toyota charts its course in the evolving landscape of automotive technology.