Toyota was rapidly gaining ground in hybrids, but the Japanese company has been relatively slow to introduce battery-electric models into its product line. Now, however, things are getting serious about EVs, and it all starts with this car, the Toyota bZ4X.
This SUV, presented here in the form of a concept, will be the first of seven bZ EVs to appear as part of Toyota’s all-electric push with 15 models by 2025. The car will sit on e-TNGA, the all-electric version of the company’s modular platform, and was developed in partnership with Subaru, which allegedly helped create the car’s all-wheel drive.
Toyota has refused to specify any dimensions for the bZ4X concept that go beyond the designation as a “medium-sized SUV”. But it says the ‘4’ in its badge represents its size, and it appears to be similar in overall dimensions to the company’s own RAV4.
However, the front and rear overhangs of the newcomer both look short, so the wheelbase can be quite longer than on the conventionally powered models. In fact, Toyota says the rear legroom in the bZ4X Concept is similar to that of the Lexus LS sedan. It’s fair to say the car should be a rival to cars like the VW ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq.
The exterior design builds on the approach of the recent hybrid Toyota, with lots of sharp kinks and a rear cabin design that gives the bZ4X more hood than it actually needs. The surface along the flanks is complex and characterized more by material variations, with glossier plastics on the wheel arch surrounds.
Toyota hasn’t released a clear top-down image of the car, but the company says the bZ4X contains a solar charge, and this is almost certainly achieved through roof-mounted panels.
The front of the car eschews a conventional grille, but still has a “mouth” just below the front edge of the hood and ultra-slim daytime running lights that act as eyebrows over quadruple lens headlights. A light strip runs directly over the rear of the bZX and is framed by taillights with a lamella effect.
The cabin arguably marks a major departure from Toyota’s current designs, with a small instrument panel, a neatly integrated widescreen infotainment system, and the use of fabric on the main panel.
The steering wheel is also unusual – a reflection of the fact that the bZ4X is offered with steer-by-wire technology. Toyota says calibrating the system means the driver no longer has to move their hands around the steering wheel when turning – and this has enabled a new design that lacks the top half of the traditional circle. The technology will be available in China first, but Toyota plans to roll it out globally.
The other components of the name of the new model are bZ – which stands for Beyond Zero, Toyota’s vision of CO2-neutral driving – and X, which denotes a crossover body style. The company has already unveiled a range of all-electric models that show that alongside a range of SUVs there will also be a conventionally shaped hatchback and a larger subcompact-style vehicle.
As revealed in Auto Express last year, Toyota protected bZ with a variety of numeric suffixes and in many cases also registered the ‘X’ variant.
Toyota says the bZ4X should hit showrooms by summer 2022, with a starting total of around £ 40,000.
What range can we expect?
A realistic, reliable range could be a major selling point for the Toyota bZ4X when the brand new all-electric SUV hits showrooms in 2022, the brand’s European marketing and product director has suggested.
Unveiled this morning, the bZ4X is the first Toyota based on e-TNGA, the all-electric evolution of the modular platform that has underpinned everything from the well-received Yaris and Corolla to the RAV4.
Toyota hasn’t revealed any technical specifications for the car yet – other than the concept having motors on each axle to provide all-wheel drive, battery capacities and charging speeds remain unknown. In an interview with Auto Express, however, Andrea Carlucci, Head of Marketing and Product Development at Toyota Europe, suggested that the reachable range could be more important to the company than headline-grabbing “claimed numbers”.
“I think we should have the right range at the right price,” said Carlucci. “That is the basic philosophy. We want to be competitive with the D-SUV [RAV4-sized] Category, but we also believe getting in the way of Toyota manufacturing cars is important. So you get what is promised.
“We started making electrified vehicles 25 years ago, so we know how to build them properly, how the system relates to the various components. Batteries below 5 degrees tend to be unstable in their performance, and in very hot countries, if the car is exposed to more than 40 degrees for long periods of time, the durability can be impaired.
“Here, in my opinion, we can really offer a unique starting point for market entry, with the perception that consumers have of our brand. We’d like to say that when you promise ‘x’ kilometers, it’s not about promising something that might be a lot on paper. ”More than what you actually get. This is a trademark of these new vehicles and the bZ brand. “
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