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Toyota takes next step in electric cars

The plug-in concept car is a seismic shift by the world's largest carmaker and the next step from its ambitious move into the hybrid world. Read more here

The FT-EV shows that Toyota is preparing to take the next step into the world of electric cars, and doing it with the same sort of mass-market approach which has made its Prius the benchmark for hybrids.

The FT-EV also shows a potential split between city and country cars as the world moves deeper into the 21st century.

It points to tiny, city-focussed plug-in cars for short-haul work with one or two passengers which would make way for larger family-sized hybrids for suburban and interstate work.

The FT-EV also shows the incredible importance of the Toyota iQ, on which it is based.

It is the smallest car with a Toyota badge and pioneered everything from two-plus-one seating to a rear airbag for the back-seat passenger.

The iQ has already become the Japanese Car of the Year for 2008 and is among the early favourites for the World Car of the Year award.

Sadly, the iQ is too costly for Australia - with a starting price in Europe which would make it more than $18,000 in local showrooms - although there is a strong chance of a similar-sized car eventually making it down under.