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What does Toyota's electric ute mean for Australia?

Toyota showed-off the Pickup EV concept in December, and it is expected to make it to production soon.

The electric ute is all the rage in the automotive industry at the moment. Everyone from Ford and General Motors, to Tesla and Rivian are planning a battery-powered load lugger.

But there had been one name conspicuously absent - Toyota. At least until December 14, 2021, because that’s when the Japanese giant revealed a whopping 17 all-electric concept cars including a dual-cab ute that looked suspiciously like a slightly larger version of the Tacoma.

Given its key rivals in the pick-up market have already revealed electric models, it makes sense that Toyota would follow suit. Here’s what we know about Toyota’s plans to go electric and what it could mean for Australian ute buyers.

Electrification is coming

Toyota has long ago pledged to offer an electrified powertrain in all of its models, including the HiLux ute, and has launched the Tundra with hybrid i-Force Max engine in the USA.

However, because Toyota unveiled more than a dozen electric concepts on the same day last year it was light on details for many - including the ute - so there’s not many hard facts to go on but the concept does provide a lot of clues.

The most important one is that Toyota’s global chief, Akio Toyoda, said all the concepts were designed to point to a future production model and that they would hit showrooms in a “few years” - rather than being long-term, visionary models.

That means it’s reasonable to expect Toyota’s electric ute to arrive by the middle of the decade. That would be ideal timing for the brand with the Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T already on sale and with the GMC Hummer, Chevrolet Silverado EV and Ram 1500 all set to hit the road by 2024.

Tundra, Tacoma, HiLux or something else?

One of the biggest questions about the new electric ute is where it will fit within the Toyota line-up of utes that includes the HiLux, and US-specific Tacoma and Tundra.

The Tacoma is Toyota’s rival to the likes of the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator, while the Tundra lines up against the F-150, Silverado and 1500.

Based on the images from Toyota’s Japanese presentation, the electric pick-up concept appears to be somewhere between the Tacoma and Tundra in size. It has a dual-cab body and a relatively short tray, so it comes across as more of a lifestyle ute than a workhorse like the Tundra.

However, in terms of styling it has some obvious Tacoma features, specifically around the grille, which could point to it being considered part of an expanded range for that model. 

It also has some clear similarities to the TRD Pro version of the Tacoma, around the lower front bumper and the pumped-out wheel arches, suggesting Toyota could play on the performance aspect of an electric ute.

Australian chances

The biggest question for most readers is - will this electric Toyota ute be offered in Australia?

Obviously, it’s too soon to know for certain, but there are some indications that it could very well be a possibility to head down under.

The most significant clue are the reports that Toyota is looking to harmonise its range of off-roaders onto a shared platform. The so-called TNGA-F platform is a ladder-frame chassis that already sits underneath the LandCruiser 300 Series and Tundra, but Toyota is believed to want to expand that to the Tacomca, 4Runner, HiLux and Fortuner.

This means that the electric ute will almost certainly be on the same underpinnings, as Toyota would need a ladder-frame chassis to ensure its new ute was tough enough to meet buyer expectations even if it’s more performance or lifestyle focused.

Moving to the TNGA-F platform also means that there is a greater chance of the electric ute being available in right-hand drive; as it will be capable of it for the HiLux and Fortuner. Although, if history has proven anything, it’s that car companies often don’t factor in right-hand drive markets as much as Australians hope they would.