Subaru & Toyota join the electric-car race

Yesterday we were talking about Toyota's concern about the new Chevrolet Volt, but news from Japan today has revealed that the big T and partner company Subaru have announced plans to join the electric vehicle race.
subaru re1
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Toyota, which owns a significant share in Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru's owner, has for the first time confirmed plans for its own battery-powered-only car to be released in the early 2010s. Meanwhile, Subaru is slightly ahead having announced fleet sales of a four-seat electric car starting next year.

The reason behind the push? Both companies are getting worried that Nissan and Mitsubishi will become the leaders in the next generation of electric-cars, which many view as the only sustainable future of automobiles.

Speaking of Nissan, the company has previously made clear plans to launch an electric vehicle in the US by 2010. Mitsubishi is not far behind with plans of a 2010 launch of its electric iMiEV in Japan, followed by Europe and the US.

Mitsubishi iMiEV

Nonetheless, Toyota is still concerned about the performance of electric-only cars. The company has previously stated that an electric car is limited by battery performance and the company's R&D chief Masatami Takimoto said the electric vehicle's range would be limited by the performance of today's batteries.

"For the time being, the most realistic approach is to use pure electric vehicles for short-distance travel," Takimoto said. "So in the early stage of the 2010s, we would like to offer a compact, very small electric vehicle on a small scale basis."

Subaru will be basing next year's electric car on the 'Stella', a tiny 660cc minicar currently only sold in Japan. The design will not change much on the outside, still seating four, but the car will now run on lithium-ion batteries.

Subaru Stella Electric Concept

If you remember, we previously mentioned Automotive Energy Supply, a joint venture between Nissan, NEC and NEC Tokin. The company will provide the lithium-ion batteries to the Subaru electric car, which is so far quoted as being able to cover 80km on a single charge.

The car's battery can be recharged in eight hours through a regular household socket. Not feeling very inspired? Think of it this way, if you used your car to get to and from work on a daily basis, would you really cover more than 80km?

"This is the best we can do with today's technology at a reasonable cost." Subaru spokesman Shinichi Murata said.

We would like to know how many Ks you drive on a daily basis and whether an 80km-a-day limit would suffice if it meant no trips to the pump.