Having put 18 million hybrids and plug-in hybrids on the roads around the world since the introduction of the Prius Hybrid in 1997, Toyota is launching its first mainstream electric vehicle and categorically remains unabashedly on its path to electrification. automobile.
The giant automaker, once hailed as an environmental hero, is now viewed by many electric vehicle advocates as a traitor to the cause of green transportation due to its stance that development complexities and range limitations make battery-powered electric vehicles, or BEVs, less practical.
“We have nothing to apologize” for delaying adopting BEVs, Cooper Ericksen, vice president of planning and product strategy for Toyota North America, said earlier this week at a conference before the Los Angeles Auto Show he aptly titled Toyota. evolution.
The company’s approach may be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but it believes in following consumer demand, not creating it.
By 2030, 80% of Toyota’s global lineup, or 8 million vehicles, will be “electrified,” Ericksen said. Two million of them will be fully electric, both battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell. Toyota intends to introduce 15 new models to the world over the next three years. Not all will be sold in the United States
bZ is the flag bearer
The first of the parade will be sold here and is expected to arrive in dealerships in mid-2022. This is a RAV4-sized compact crossover called the bZ4X and it will be the standard bearer for Toyota electric vehicles.
The first half of the unsightly name stands for Beyond Zero, which is the name of Toyota’s new global sub-brand for electric vehicles. The second half is how Toyota says small crossover: the 4 represents the vehicle’s size class and the X the “crossover”.
The bZ moniker will be used for seven of Toyota’s 15 new electric vehicles. Eight of them will get various Toyota model designations.
With Toyota’s name and reputation behind it, the first bZ is likely to be a serious contender in the slew of small electric crossovers about to flood the market.
Initial range estimates, however, are likely to disappoint some potential buyers at a time when 300 miles are quickly becoming the benchmark for electric cars.
The single-engine, front-wheel drive variants of the bZ4X can travel up to 250 miles on a single charge, according to Toyota’s internal estimates. Dual-engine, four-wheel-drive models will likely drop to around 230 miles (Toyota has not provided official figures).
This matches most current competitors, especially Volkswagen’s new ID.4, which can travel 260 km on a single charge when configured with rear-wheel drive. Its twin-engine four-wheel drive variant has a range of 249 miles. The 250-230 miles the bZ4X should provide is more than enough to meet the daily and even weekend driving needs of most Americans, most of the time, especially when equipped with 240-volt home chargers. .
But single-engine versions of the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, and Nissan Ariya crossover electric vehicles are expected to travel 300 miles. If Toyota misses the price target, it could lose potential customers to competitors with greater range.
The bZ4X could also face stiff competition within the Toyota family.
The RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid starts at just under $ 40,000 and can deliver up to 42 miles of all-electric range, which in theory is enough to meet the average daily 30 mile commute in the United States. It can also travel an additional 558 miles. on gasoline for an EPA estimated total range of 600 miles if it leaves the garage with a fully charged battery and a full tank of fuel.
The RAV4 Prime is also the second fastest vehicle in the Toyota lineup alongside the Toyota Supra with a 5.7 second sprint from zero to 60 mph. It also has more cargo and towing capacity than the bZ4X.
The electric crossover will be marketed primarily as a city transport and grocery vehicle, in part because of its range and relatively sluggish acceleration. Its time from zero to 60 mph is 7.7 seconds for dual engine models and 8.4 seconds for single engine versions (the AWD VW ID.4 has a 5.4 second travel from 0 to 60 mph).
Toyota dealers may find it difficult to direct many buyers who are not dedicated EV seekers to the 250-mile bZ4X if it is priced much higher than the 600-mile RAV4 Prime.
Toyota is awaiting the bZ4X pricing announcements until the launch approaches in late spring or early summer 2022.
Greens not happy
In the meantime, the company continues to draw criticism from environmental groups including the Sierra Club, League of Conservation voters, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists for its continued support for the internal combustion engine. as a viable and valuable tool in its arsenal.
While several major automakers, including Audi, General Motors, Honda, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, have said they intend to go all-electric over the next decade, Toyota maintains it will continue. to build vehicles with internal combustion engines for the foreseeable future.
He refused to sign a pledge at the recent United Nations Climate Summit, COP26, to work on making all new cars zero-emission vehicles by 2040. And this week he announced a joint program with Subaru, Mazda, Kawasaki and Yamaha to develop clean combustion. replacement of gasoline and a hydrogen internal combustion engine that will have no carbon dioxide emissions.
Toyota said, however, that it intended to be “carbon neutral” by 2050, meaning that while some of its operations could emit carbon, others would reduce it for a total “net” impact. zero ”on the environment.
bZ to the rescue
Electric vehicles, both battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell, are part of Toyota’s strategy to offer consumers a product mix that will also include conventional internal combustion vehicles, gasoline-electric hybrids. and plug-in hybrids.
BZ4X will present Toyota’s electric vehicle strategy to the car buying public.
This is a 50-state car in the United States, but initial distribution will be heavily focused on dealers in EV-friendly states such as California and New York. It may take a year or more for the electric vehicle to become readily available outside of these states.
There will be two versions: a front-wheel drive model with a single electric motor, a 71.4 kWh and 201 horsepower battery, as well as a two-motor all-wheel drive version with 225 horsepower and a 72.8 kWh battery. . pack.
Range estimated by Toyota for the single-engine model at 250 miles according to US test protocols. The Asian and European versions are rated at 310 miles, but under a different test method that does not consider high-speed travel and air-conditioning use as much as the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s tests. environment.
The automaker hasn’t shared its range estimate for the all-wheel-drive version, but all-wheel-drive vehicles are typically 5-10% less efficient, which would put the AWD bx4X at around 230 miles.
On the outside, the new electric crossover is 3.6 inches taller and two tenths of an inch taller than the RAV4, but its roofline is 3 inches closer to the road. Its wheelbase is six inches longer than the RAV4, making it a more spacious back seat.
The bZ4X will also offer Toyota’s latest line of advanced driver assistance safety systems, a new widescreen multimedia infotainment system and 30-minute battery charge on a DC fast charge system.
Under House or Senate versions of a new federal electric vehicle incentive plan currently under consideration, the bZ4X would have at least $ 7,500 of tax credit eligibility going forward, as under the current tax credit program. The new proposals would increase the credit available for electric vehicles made in the United States with unions to $ 12,500.
Subaru, which is partly owned by Toyota, helped develop the new electric vehicle and contributed to the all-wheel drive system with the popular Subaru X-mode for off-road travel and a new “Grip Control” function that serves as a sort of low -speed governor for off-road driving.
A new Subaru model, the Solterra, will use the same bodywork, mechanical systems, and dedicated “skateboard” platform as the bZ4X and will likely be a direct competitor to all-wheel-drive models.
The two companies have strong individual identities and have demonstrated with a previous joint project — the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 sports coupes — that they can successfully share components and remain competitive in the market.
The new Toyota EV is most likely to compete for buyers’ attention with small, non-luxury electric crossovers. The growing crowd includes the Volkswagen ID.4, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, some versions of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and upcoming models such as the Honda Prologue, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Nissan Ariya and Subaru. Solterra.
If this proves successful, Toyota executives are no doubt hoping it will start to silence some of the criticism of the company’s green credentials.