The “E” in the name of Toyota’s legendary AE86 was there to designate it as a Corolla, but wouldn’t it be great if it stood for “electric” instead? Apparently someone at the company thought so; Toyota shows off a draft version of what the icon from the 80s would look like if it were powered by batteries (or hydrogen). The two cars will be showcased at the Tokyo Auto Salon, which runs from January 13 to 15.
The AE86 BEV Concept uses “electrification technologies developed by Lexus”, according to it Toyota website, with parts from a hybrid Tundra and Prius. Coupled to the truck engine is something you don’t normally see in electric cars – a manual transmission. I can’t say I know exactly what it would be like to drive an engine that can deliver torque almost instantly, but I do know I’d like to know.
That said, I don’t think joyride would be super fast, or take very long; while Toyota clearly made an effort to retain much of the original AE86 driving experience, according to Jalopnik that engine could only make 48 horsepower, less than half of the original. Even with a Prius battery you just won’t get very far.
Not that power matters much to me – I’m just a sucker for cars with that typical 80s shape. For anyone who wants to make a car with hardly any turns (ahem), here’s how you do it; not by copying images from the PS1 era, but by taking inspiration from geometric shapes, such as the trapezoid. That is, as long as you try to target people who grew up in the 80s and 90s and watch anime like Initial DThat famously featured an AE86 – and to which these concepts clearly pay homage with their paintwork and decals. I’ll admit, outside of that demographic, the general public probably isn’t clamoring for a return to boxy vehicles.
Toyota restored another AE86 to run the original engine on hydrogen, so you can get the “attractive points of sound and vibration” you’d get from a gasoline engine, but without the carbon emissions, Toyota said. No reason to guess that some of the parts came from a Mirai, Toyota’s hydrogen experiment that (unfortunately, in my opinion) has not received much interest or investment in America. As Ars Technica points outbut this car probably won’t be as efficient as a Mirai, or as fast as an unmodified AE86; there’s a reason why most hydrogen vehicles use it in the form of a fuel cell, rather than burning it in an engine.
While I’d probably go for the battery-powered version if I were buying one of these cars, the AE86 H2 Concept has one huge advantage over the electric version: it has the pop-up headlights instead of the fixed ones.
Not that it’s likely I’ll ever get that choice. While Toyota hinted at the press conference that at least to think about making things easier for people who are trying to convert their own beloved cars from petrol, it’s not like there a bunch of AE86s just lying around to restore and modded. The company stopped producing it in 1987.
It looks like the AE86 BEV and H2 are destined for a place on my “cars I want but will never be able to get” list. They’ll be right there alongside that incredible Hyundai Grandeur EV we saw last year, a US version of the Honda E, and a Ford Maverick with both the AWD and hybrid systems selling at MSRP. (Ford, I know you can combine those two things because of the Escape and F-150just do it already!)
PS: If you want to see how these cars are put together, check out this video describing that process – but unless you understand Japanese, it becomes a primarily visual experience.