El Toyota HiLux 2023 se ha reinventado con un enfoque eléctrico, ofreciendo una experiencia de conducción rápida y emocionante.

Toyota has given its best-selling HiLux ute a new electric makeover, but what does this “experimental” project mean for real buyers of Australia’s best-selling ute?

What We Love

1. The smoothest HiLux ever.
2. Less nervous driving without a load.
3. HiLux-like interior with minimal learning curve.

What We Don’t

1. The concept is the wrong “spec” for Australia.
2. The testbed is only suitable for local delivery.
3. Toyota remains silent on specifications.

The ute you see here is an electric HiLux, except it’s not. Yes, it’s a current-generation HiLux converted with an EV transmission, but it’s not something you would walk into a Toyota showroom and buy. At least not yet, and not like this.

The car you see here is a product of Toyota Thailand, the factory that manufactures the HiLux for Australia. It was first showcased in December 2022, and despite being around for almost a year, Toyota is incredibly cautious about the specific details of this electric vehicle and what powers it.

In terms of what Australian buyers love (or at least what Toyota Australia offers us), this concept is completely off. It’s not the top-selling dual-cab 4×4 that tops the sales charts here; in fact, it’s the opposite, with a single-cab body and rear-wheel drive. It even sports a ute tub, a configuration that Toyota Australia doesn’t offer alongside a single-cab body.

But it’s a testbed. Despite nearing the end of its current generation, Toyota has shown that this old dog has plenty of new tricks in the form of a heavily revised GR Sport and Rogue variants, a mild hybrid model on the way, and conceptual versions of an electric vehicle and a hydrogen fuel cell prototype.

Toyota is rightfully proud of its work on the electric HiLux, and in a sort of world first, invited Australian media to take a quick spin in the HiLux BEV while it was on display in Australia for fleet buyers and Toyota executives.

Is Toyota Building an Electric HiLux?

Given that the current-generation HiLux has been in production since 2015, and the typical lifespan of vehicles like this is around 10 years, don’t expect to see one of these in your local Toyota showroom.

An electric HiLux is not completely ruled out, but the likelihood of this current generation receiving the full EV treatment is incredibly slim, especially in Australia. That’s not to say Toyota isn’t building the vehicle you see here – a version of the HiLux BEV is planned for a very limited production run to participate in a pilot program in Thailand.

In that production, the electric HiLuxes will be put into service as songthaews or baht buses – the ute or pick-up taxis seen on the streets of Thai cities with two rows of seats where the cargo would normally go. It’s a use case that fits the Thai market but seems very different from what we might expect here.

Given the age of the current HiLux, modifying the structure and transmission for a production line is likely not an option in the eyes of Toyota’s bean counters. For the next HiLux, things could be different.

We already know that the Toyota Tacoma will switch to Toyota’s ladder-frame TNGA-F chassis in its next generation; that’s the chassis underneath the LandCruiser 300 Series and also the Prado. Neither of them has an EV version yet, but future-proofing is a designed-in aspect to the new architecture, and a hybrid version of the new Prado shows that at least some thought has gone into accommodating electrification.

How that pans out for an EV HiLux remains to be seen.

With Toyota being the best-selling 4×2 vehicle in Australia and having a strong presence in corporate fleets, a short-range, two-wheel-drive electric HiLux could find success here. It’s the kind of vehicle that would work for local deliveries, council maintenance crews, postal services, and on-site services at road projects and construction sites.

In terms of appeal, a dual-cab, dual-motor HiLux would likely be a bigger hit among private and small business buyers. To maintain the multi-purpose versatility of the ute, any electric version would likely need a big leap forward in terms of range, towing capacity, and off-road suitability – something that this first toe in the water doesn’t offer.

But never say never. One of the vehicles revealed at Toyota’s EV showcase had the familiar shape of a dual-cab ute, hinting that there may be something much better on the way.

Driving the Electric HiLux

I wasn’t sure if the new HiLux would feel like a random hodgepodge. Prototypes are often built to a “good enough” standard, but rarely do they have a truly drivable standard.

Prototype vehicles often lack interior pieces, mismatched driver control systems, rigid suspension, or speed restrictions. The HiLux BEV has none of these.

Aside from a 3D-printed steering column cover and black tape over the steering wheel’s function buttons, the electric HiLux concept has a fully functional and very familiar interior. The only key difference is the gear selector, which uses a rotary dial taken from the BZ4X electric SUV: push and turn right for drive, push and turn left for reverse, press the “P” button to park. Simple.

Of course, once you press the start button, there’s no noise. Just a “Ready” light on the instrument cluster. The dials themselves are fully functional. There’s a trip computer with a reduced set of functions and displays, a speedometer on the right, and a huge E-to-F charge gauge on the left.

Progress is smooth and gentle. Around the Toyota Autodrome, Toyota’s internal demonstration track at the former Altona production facilities, the instructions are quite clear: don’t wreck this expensive one-off.

That said, I did have the opportunity to open the taps a few times. No official tests or timings were conducted, but the 0-100 km/h fell in the eight- to nine-second range (using the scientifically tested timing method of “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi”). The HiLux BEV doesn’t feel outrageously powerful or torquey, but it can spin the rear tires if you give it too much throttle coming out of a corner.

During our drive, brake regeneration was not available – when you lifted off the throttle, the HiLux BEV continued to coast. I was told that a regeneration mode is technically feasible but it wasn’t clear if the function simply hadn’t been set up in the car or if it was just unavailable for our drive.

For what it’s worth, it seems like a better option that a cargo-capable car simply coasts rather than shifting the weight of the load without the driver’s intervention.

Without altering the overall “feel” of a HiLux, the BEV has a quiet ride without the nerves usually found in a loadless ‘Lux. The steering feels light but similar in pace when you turn at lock, and the acceleration is respectable, with the absence of diesel noise and vibration being the biggest advantage.

What Are the Specifications of the Toyota Electric HiLux?

When asked about the electric transmission, Toyota’s response was a firm “no comments.” This applies to nearly every aspect of information you, as a curious consumer, might want to know. Battery capacity, battery chemistry, charging speed, motor power, and torque are all covered under the motto “can’t say.”

At a previous press event, Toyota Sales and Marketing Chief Sean Hanley described the HiLux BEV as “a battery that’s likely similar to…”