DETROIT Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said it would launch an all-electric car for city commuting by 2012 in the United States as part of its plan to speed up the introduction of green cars as its global sales falter.
The FT-EV concept made its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Sunday, where the world's top automaker is also unveiling two new gasoline-electric hybrid cars.
The FT-EV concept shares a platform with the tiny iQ urban commuter car, which runs on a gasoline engine and emits just 99 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.
"Now, more than ever, while we are so focused on the pressing issues of the moment, we cannot lose sight of our future," Irv Miller, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. group vice president, said in a statement.
Toyota said the concept car is targeted at the urban dweller driving up to 50 miles between home and work, for instance.
"Last summer's $4-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly," Miller said. "It was a brief glimpse of our future."
Toyota, which had previously said it would aim to get an electric car out by the "early part of the next decade," would join rivals General Motors Corp (GM.N) and Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) in the race to grab the lead in the zero-emission car segment.
But Toyota said it still considered gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles its long-term core powertrain technology.
With an aim of selling 1 million hybrids annually soon after 2010, Toyota will launch as many as 10 new hybrid models by then in various markets. The third-generation Prius and the Lexus HS250h, to debut in Detroit, are part of that effort, it said.
General Motors (GM.N), which Toyota passed in recent years to become the top global automaker by sales, has said it will launch its Chevrolet Volt electric car in the United States in late 2010. GM says the Volt will have a 40-miles range for driving on one battery charge.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, editing by Peter Bohan)