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A Performance EV Lurks Under the Shell of This EV-Swapped Toyota Tacoma

A Model 3 Performance drivetrain helps this Taco scoot from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds.

byJosé Rodríguez Jr|
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The Toyota Tacoma has finally gone hybrid for this current generation, but it's anyone's guess when the truck will go fully electric. It's likely that we'll be waiting a long time for a Tacoma EV, unless, of course, you're a Taco enthusiast with a penchant for engine swaps like Drew The Car Guy, who transplanted the EV drivetrain of a Tesla Model 3 Performance into the body of a 2002 Tacoma.

The resourceful Taco fan grew tired of living with the fuel costs of another truck-based Toyota (a fifth-gen 4Runner) after commuting in a Tesla Model 3 for a couple of months, and falling in love with the "addictive" torque and power of the Tesla, in Drew's own words from the forum post where he introduced his EV conversion. Drew says the Tacoma's frame and Model 3's powertrain were compatible—give or take a few frame and suspension mods. After a little custom fabrication and a lot of dedication, the mad scientist ended up with what is likely the first EV-swapped Tacoma ever:

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The builder says he chose to use the Tesla Model 3 as the mechanical basis for the conversion due to its compatibility with the Tacoma's frame and because of the battery's energy density, which Drew says is "kind of hard to beat, being probably the most dense lithium battery out right now." The entire rear axle assembly comes from the Model 3, which makes it hard to say if this is more Taco than Tesla or vice versa.

Adapting the massive battery of the Tesla Model 3 Performance into the relatively small ladder frame of the first-generation Tacoma required tearing into the Tesla's battery pack and extracting its four modules: two of them now ride in the bed of the truck, while the other two ride between the frame rails. A coilover suspension helps the Tacoma handle the electric drivetrain, which comprises the battery and electric motor. These alone weigh in at a whopping 1,200 pounds, according to Inside EVs. Power is sent to the Tacoma's rear wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission.

The project also required a combination of components from different models that you wouldn't necessarily expect to play nice, including the Tesla Model 3, Model S, Toyota Tacoma, Cadillac ATS, and an unspecified Volvo. It's a hodgepodge of different OEM and aftermarket parts that yielded an EV pickup with an output of 300 horsepower, a max range of about 200 miles, and an alleged 0-60 time of just 3.5 seconds.

But beyond this Tacoma's environmental accolades as a car that no longer produces tailpipe emissions, there are other reasons to celebrate the little pickup. It's a single cab, for starters, which is the platonic ideal of a truck. It's also tastefully lowered due to the Tesla components, which is fine. And it comes in the classic Mystic Gold Metallic finish, a staple of the first-gen Tacoma, which got two facelifts during its production run—first in 1998, then again in 2001.

As far as I'm concerned, the final years of the first-gen Tacoma were the apotheosis of practicality that made the midsize truck famous. Every Tacoma that came afterward was a riff on the first, but none were able to recreate the magic of the original. The first-gen was a polymath, capable of being a loyal work truck or capable off-roader depending on the needs of its owners. We can now add EV-conversion to the list of things that the versatile little Tacoma can take on.

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