Over in Japan, Subaru is really a bit of a whizz when it comes to small cars, and small electric cars at that. For years, Subaru has been working on a range of battery-powered minis, over and above its own unique 660cc microcar range.

So it comes as no surprise that a more practical, plug-in Stella Concept, is to debut at the coming G8 Summit up in Hokkaido.

But the truth is that Subaru’s electric future is likely to be shaped by Toyota’s ever-growing interests in the brand. For instance, next year Subaru will give up on its own 660cc minicar business and will sell OEM Daihatsus instead; a product of the Toyota empire.

But this isn’t all bad. As a small company, without the cash and resources to go head to head with the big guns, Subaru has had to pick and choose where to spend its eco money. Look how long it took to bring its excellent new Boxer diesel to market.

Pulling out of 660cc minis will free up a lot of cash and time to develop tweaky new eco minis just like the new plug-in Stella Concept, which almost certainly won’t go into production as it stands but will serve as a test bed for the future.

And there’s plenty of incentive to go all out on the eco-car front. Subaru will be feeling the pressure from Mitsubishi, whose impressive electric-powered iMiEV minis have been extensively tested and written about in Japan, and the shadow cast by Toyota's cutting edge iQ ultramini is another inducement for Subaru to pull something dramatic out of the hat.