In a discreet showcase at this year’s Japan Mobility Show, Toyota unveiled a new potential contender in the electric vehicle space. Despite nearly flying under the radar, the Toyota Electric PickUp (EPU) concept could seriously impact the compact and midsize truck segments globally. The pickup is geared to go head-to-head with Ford’s popular Maverick, while also bringing a suite of novel features that aim to give Toyota a distinct capability and technological edge.
The cool thing is that the EPU was a skunkworks-like project developed in clandestine conditions over the past three years. A team of engineers and designers crafted the EPU to complement, not compete with, the brand’s unshakable Tacoma. Kevin Hunter, President of Toyota’s Calty Design Research Center in Southern California, summed up the vehicle’s essence, saying, “It’s just super, super functional, and it’s not intended to overlap [the Tacoma] at all.”
Built on a monocoque body that aims for both high durability and a unique style, the EPU boasts an all-wheel-drive powertrain and a yet-to-be-disclosed large battery pack. Interestingly, the vehicle measures just over 5 meters in overall length, closely mirroring the Maverick. However, it stretches about 10 cm wider, stands roughly 3 cm shorter, and features a 25 cm longer wheelbase. In contrast to the current 2023 Tacoma, the EPU is about 30 cm shorter overall, same width, and its wheelbase is about 12 cm longer.
The EPU’s real differentiator lies in its focus on utility, most notably in its bed design. A 4.5-foot-long bed deepens to secure cargo effectively. Yet, the engineering genius occurs when the tailgate drops; the tailgate’s top folds back upwards to create a 6-foot bed. If that’s not enough, the front of the bed can also fold down to convert into an 8-foot-long loading floor, given that the second-row seats can fold forward.
Additionally, the EPU includes a strategically placed pass-through under its configurable center console. This feature provides the needed room to securely stow board lumber up to 12 feet in length, a feature that many users might find particularly useful for recreational and hauling purposes.
While the EPU offers robust competition to the Maverick, Hyundai Santa Cruz, and few others, several uncertainties remain. Approval from parent Toyota Motor Corp. in Japan is still pending, and financial considerations, particularly around pricing and manufacturing, are yet to be ironed out according to Automotive News. However, executives at Toyota Motor North America are seriously advocating for the EPU, focusing on its potential to address emissions challenges with its electric powertrain.