Toyota EV Pickup Truck: Alternative to Lightning, Tesla Cybertruck, And More
Americans love pickup trucks. They look rugged, they have lots of space for people and cargo, and have the ability to comfortably serve business and family owners both on- and off-road. Drivers love their roomy interiors, the versatility of having a separate, exterior load area, and their all-weather, all-conditions capability.
All of those virtues translate to electric pickups – vehicles like the Rivian R1T and Ford F-150 Lightning combine all of the traditional virtues of pickups with the performance, smoothness, and zero-emissions aspects that make EVs great. These trucks sell in big numbers, and Tesla’s Cybertruck, due in American driveways soon, has generated massive buzz online. Now, with a concept vehicle revealed at the recent Tokyo Mobility Show, Toyota is hinting it may be the next entrant into the EV pickup market.
Toyota EPU Concept EV Pickup
While Toyota made no claims that the EPU concept pickup will enter production soon, of the vehicles the company unveiled in Tokyo, it was easily the most production-ready, with a relatively conservative exterior and interior design that wouldn’t need to be “toned down” to meet global safety regulations. Unlike the F-150 Lightning, which is a full-size pickup, and the Rivian, which is nearly full-size, the EPU is a compact electric pickup, similar in size to the Ford Maverick.
Like the Maverick, the EPU concept has a “uni-body” architecture and not a separate frame. This makes it stronger, lighter, and therefore more efficient. Without large and heavy frame rails, there’s more space for batteries, and more space in the interior and cargo area. Unlike the Maverick, which offers buyers a choice of a turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, or a hybrid drivetrain, the Toyota EPU pickup is powered by batteries, with electric motors at the front and rear to drive all four wheels.
The Space of a Tacoma, With Its Own Style
While it has similar space inside to the rugged Tacoma (which itself was revised in 2023, and is also available as a hybrid), Toyota says the EPU is not meant to compete against its other popular compact pickup. While the Tacoma screams ruggedness from every angle, the EPU is more refined-looking, aimed more at drivers who will use it in daily life and for the occasional casual adventure – not so much for extreme off-roading. EPU buyers will love the great outdoors – but might live in the city, in a small house or in shared accommodations where big trucks aren’t the best options.
Being designed from the ground up as an EV brings the Toyota EPU some distinct advantages. Despite being as roomy as the Tacoma, it sits on a much smaller footprint, with cabin and cargo space maximized over top of the flat battery pack. The nose is short and sloping, because there’s no need to package a big engine or transmission; instead that space is given over to passengers, and also means the EPU has a short, sloping nose that makes it easy to park.
The EPU is also much more versatile than the Tacoma, and drivers can easily configure it for different uses. Its uni-body construction means that the cargo bed is actually connected to the passenger compartment, with a fold-down wall can expand the bed, much like the Chevrolet Avalanche. You simply fold the rear seats, and a gate opens to the bed, letting you load long pieces of cargo without it hanging out the rear of the truck. Thanks to this feature, the EPU’s 4.5-foot bed can become a 6-foot bed, expandable to 8 feet when the tailgate is down.
Toyota’s Big EV Push
Given its concept vehicle status, Toyota is mum on the technical details of the EPU’s powertrain, including how much power it makes, and its range. What we do know is that Toyota has made a lot of noise recently about its investment in next-generation EV batteries – with the promise of lighter weight, better packaging, and exceptionally long range capability coming in the next few years. Indeed, Toyota has hinted that its new batteries might be able to deliver up to double the range of today’s best batteries, and also improve efficiency and charging speed.
The company has, after sitting on the sidelines of the EV revolution, also announced major investments in all-new electric products. While Toyota only offers the bZ4X crossover to American customers now, it will significantly expand its range of EV options over the next several years. For the American market, nothing would make more sense in this lineup than an EV pickup; it’s hard to imagine that a production version of the EPU would be anything but a success.