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Toyota EPU electric pick-up truck previews Hilux’s EV future


EPU electric ute targets lifestyle pick-up buyers to a stronger degree than Hilux, with long wheelbase set to hold a big battery

Among a wide variety of electric vehicle concepts Toyota is set to display at this week’s 2023 Tokyo motor show will be the five metre-long EPU – a fully-electric pick-up truck with many similarities to Hilux ute proportions.

Announced just days before its physical reveal at this year’s Tokyo show, the EPU – which probably stands for Electric Pick-Up – is a clear vision of where Toyota will take its midsized ute models in the electric era.

Front left three quarter view of the Toyota EPU electric pick-up truck ute concept car

Toyota confirmed that the EPU is a “next-generation mid-size pickup truck concept” with a “versatile deck space that caters to a broader range of user applications.”

Toyota currently sells two midsize pick-up trucks globally: in Australia, it’s the well-known Hilux range, while the related (but visually and mechanically distinct) Tacoma is sold in the American market.

Read our explainer to understand the differences here.

Rear left three quarter view of the Toyota EPU electric pick-up truck ute concept car with an open tailgate tray
The tailgate of the EPU appears to slide out

Both vehicles currently rely on combustion engines: mainly gasoline in North America and diesel elsewhere. In 2024, the Tacoma will gain a powerful turbocharged electric-hybrid powertrain called the i-Force Max.

That engine could eventually come to Australia in the next-generation Hilux – expected around 2025 – but for now, Aussies have to make do with the forthcoming 48-volt mild-hybrid Hilux set for release in the coming months.

Toyota is testing a very early electric Hilux prototype in Australia at present, and Chasing Cars has driven it: see our review here.

The EPU appears to be considerably more advanced than the Hilux Revo EV prototype currently in testing

But the EPU is fully electric – and like the recently-announced Toyota Land Cruiser SE electric concept, it is monocoque and not a body-on-frame vehicle.

In that sense, the EPU is more like a Tesla Cybertruck or Rivian R1T, which are both monocoque (unibody) fully-electric pick-up trucks – though neither is confirmed for an Australian release.

The EPU could be the vehicle to finally reunify the Hilux and Tacoma name plates in one electric vehicle.

Interior and dashboard of the Toyota EPU electric pick-up truck ute concept car
The interior of the EPU incorporates a yoke steering wheel

It is likely that a production version of the EPU would be sold in markets with well-developed EV infrastructure.

For markets lagging on EV uptake, Toyota is also set to show the probably diesel-powered IMV-O ute concept at this year’s Tokyo show, but even the IMV-O could spawn a fully-electric variant later.

Dimensionally, the EPU is slightly shorter than a current-generation Hilux double-cab (5070mm vs 5235mm) – partially because the EPU has a very short bonnet owing to the fact that it does not need to package an engine.

Side profile of the Toyota EPU electric pick-up truck ute concept car
EPU is a little shorter than a Hilux, but the wheelbase is much longer

The EPU’s 3350mm wheelbase is 265mm longer than that of a Hilux, while the electric ute is wider (1910mm vs 1855mm) and lower (1710mm vs 1865mm).

That long wheelbase should allow the EPU to accommodate batteries of 100kWh or greater for a driving range beyond 500km. Off-roading tech and capabilities were not prioritised in Toyota’s EPU announcement.

A sliding tray concept is evident in photographs of the EPU while the near-production quality interior integrates two large displays split by a physical direction selector – while steering is done by yoke.

Yoke steering wheel and screens of the Toyota EPU electric pick-up truck ute concept car

Toyota says the EPU combines “BEV quietness” with “a low centre of gravity for superior handling stability and ride comfort.”

Internationally, Toyota is ramping up its electric vehicle strategy. The conglomerate has long been criticised for slow movement to full electrification, noting that the Nagoya-based marque was a very early adopter of electric hybrid powertrains.

Toyota now intends to sell at least 1.5 million EVs per year by 2026 – just three years away – on its way to a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

For its part, Toyota Australia has committed to selling an electrified variant in every model lineup by 2030. It’s not known whether the 48-volt mild hybrid Hilux counts as an electrified version of that car.