The G7 Summit is happening in Hiroshima, Japan, right now and some automakers have taken the opportunity to announce new projects. Toyota, their wholly owned subsidiary Daihatsu, and Suzuki (of which Toyota owns about 5%) made news with a trio of electric micro-vans built to kei car specifications.
The battery-electric vans are part of an industry-wide push toward carbon neutrality. Kei-class vehicles, in addition to limited displacement gasoline engines, have strict dimensional restrictions that allow them to navigate the often narrow streets in dense urban areas. They’re also privilege to certain tax breaks and parking benefits.
The engine size rules obviously don’t apply to the electric vans, but they will still conform to the size boundaries. Kei vans are often used to solve the “last mile” problem in logistics since they’re able to whiz around crowded streets inaccessible by larger commercial vehicles.
Daihatsu, which specializes in kei cars, will build the vans and name their variant the HiJet Cargo. The HiJet name has been a consistent one in the company’s lineup since 1960, but these new versions will be front-wheel-drive in contrast to the rear-wheel-drive gasoline variants. Toyota’s version will be called the Pixis Van, while Suzuki will be named the Every, a nameplate that’s been around since 1982. Aside from the badges the vans appear identical. Range is said to be approximately 200km (124 miles) on a single charge.
The exhibition was held in conjunction with the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, which former Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda heads. Toyoda stepped down from the top position at the company his grandfather founded in April, but still takes a overseer role as Chairman. Toyoda was criticized for being slow to adopt EVs, and new CEO Koji Sato has emphasized the role of battery-electrics moving forward while still taking a multi-front approach to carbon neutrality with hydrogen and hybrids. These vans were likely in development before Toyoda’s retirement, though.