• Battery-electric powertrain replaces conventional gas engine.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 121 MPGe combined.
  • Arrives soon in car-sharing and fleet programs.

Scion announced that an all-electric version of its tiny 4-seat city car will soon be joining car-sharing and campus fleets. The 2013 Scion iQ EV drops the conventional iQ's 4-cylinder gasoline engine for a battery-electric setup. The EPA estimates a fuel economy equivalent of 121 MPGe for the electric vehicle (EV), and Scion says it will have a range of 50 miles and will fully charge in just three hours.

Like the smart fortwo to which it's often compared, the iQ is a true city car. Its proportions are uncommonly tight; the vehicle is just 10-ft long. Because engineers designed the vehicle with maneuverability in mind, no other vehicle can match the iQ's tiny 13-ft turning radius. These attributes make it well suited to urban use and also make the iQ a good platform for an EV.

That's because cities are ideal driving environments for electric vehicles. EVs offer greater efficiency benefits than conventional vehicles in the stop-and-go driving common to urban areas. And the density of cities offers more opportunities to recharge before the batteries run out. In fact, the EPA estimates the city fuel economy equivalent for the iQ EV at 138 MPGe. In highway driving, economy drops by about 25 percent.

A range of 50 miles on a single charge will likely prove ample for most drivers, especially in car-sharing and fleet applications. A 50-mile electric-only range rates in the middle of the pack for EVs. Plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt can travel around 35 miles on electricity before depleting the batteries. At the other end of the spectrum, the all-electric Nissan Leaf has a range of about 80 miles.

Because of its small size and light weight, the iQ doesn't require as much energy as a larger vehicle like the Leaf. Its smaller battery charges faster, too. The iQ can take on a full charge in just 3 hours using a 240-volt charger. That's considerably quicker than some larger vehicles. And according to currently published EPA economy estimates, no 2013 vehicle can top the iQ EV's efficiency.

Even the gas-powered iQ is a vehicle with a limited audience. Most drivers want more space than this little car can offer. But for city-dwellers who don't often carry lots of people or gear, the iQ is ideal: economical, easy to drive and easy to park. The 2013 Scion iQ EV will likely prove to be an even better urban runabout thanks to the very low operational costs of driving on electricity.

What it means to you: The Scion iQ EV will soon be available to fleets and car-sharing services. With tiny proportions and an electric powertrain, the iQ EV boasts the highest efficiency of any EPA-rated 2013 model.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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