Toyota’s bold electrification plan to launch 30 new EVs by 2030 includes new EV sports cars.
Following the launch of the new Toyota GR86 sports coupe, Toyota is ramping up to electrify its growing Gazoo Racing performance brand – and it’s poised to bring back the Toyota MR2 as a lithe and compact two-seat EV with affordability at the forefront of its agenda.
The roll-out of Toyota’s flat-floored E-TNGA modular EV architecture – as first deployed on the Toyota bZ4X and closely related Subaru Solterra and Lexus RZ SUVs – gives Toyota the flexibility needed to maintain an offering in every segment as it electrifies.
Late last year, Toyota hinted at the diversity of its future electric line-up by unwrapping a fleet of 15 concept EVs (four of them from premium brand Lexus), including a diminutive urban crossover, a Tesla Model 3-rivalling saloon, a full-size pick-up truck and the aggressively styled Sports EV concept, which is expected to evolve into a modern-day MR2, the brand’s first bespoke electric sports car.
The future of Gazoo Racing has been thrown into the spotlight following Toyota’s shock announcement that it plans to launch 30 new EVs by 2030 – among the more ambitious electrification pledges of any mainstream manufacturer – and the revelation that the already-acclaimed GR86 will be in production for just two years, because it falls foul of forthcoming European crash-safety regulations.
Toyota has been vocal in recent months about its belief that battery power is not the only approach the car industry can take to decarbonisation – particularly so Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute – and it has emphasised its continued commitment to hydrogen fuel cell powertrains and even reworked some of its existing performance motors to run on hydrogen.
But with a ready-made skateboard BEV architecture on the table and a fast-improving international charging network to cater to owners of such cars, an all-electric two-seater fits logically into the firm’s line-up.
Toyota is also hard at work on the development of production-ready solid-state batteries, which by virtue of their increased power density are both lighter and more efficient than the conventional lithium ion batteries in most EVs on sale today, and that makes them perfect for use in smaller and more dynamically focused sports cars.
Whether Gazoo’s debut EV will be the recipient of these new-era cells remains to be seen, but intriguingly the proportions of the targatopped Sports EV concept – which appear realistic enough to be carried through to production largely unaltered – look to mirror the mid-engined silhouette of the EV’s spiritual predecessor, the MR2.
‘Mid-engined’ EVs are technically possible; the successors to the Porsche 718 Cayman and Lotus Elise will stack batteries vertically behind the seats respectively in a bid to centralise their mass within the chassis and thus emulate the handling traits of their petrol predecessors.
Whether the new EV will stay true to the ‘R’ part of the MR2’s name is unclear. The earlier sports car’s rear-drive layout and optimised weight distribution were central to its charismatic dynamics, but so far the E-TNGA platform has been used only for front and rear-wheel-drive cars, so it would be more likely to provide the basis for a dedicated sports EV platform, rather than being carried over wholesale or with lightly repackaged drive systems.