Subaru has long lagged the battery-car market, but the Japanese automaker may be ready to finally plug in next year with the help of it partner Toyota, reports from Japan suggesting the all-electric Subaru Evoltis will make its debut at the 2021 Tokyo Motor Show.
Subaru has already registered the “Evoltis” name in several markets, including the U.S., though that alone is no guarantee it will be used once a production model hits the road.
Subaru has been teasing the idea of going electric for some time through a series of Viziv concept vehicles, but it has been slow to transition them to production, only bringing to market its first plug-in hybrid, a version of its Crosstrek SUV, for the 2019 model-year. But the automaker faces the same challenges as the rest of the industry: increasingly stringent emissions and fuel efficiency standards.
Going all-electric isn’t easy, and it’s certainly not cheap – which is why Subaru’s steadily expanding relationship with Toyota appears to be the long-missing piece that will allow it to finally bring a pure battery-electric vehicle to market.
Late last year, the two manufacturers expanded their ties – which date back nearly 15 years. Toyota now holds a 20% stake in the smaller Japanese carmaker after investing another $700 million. The deal was also expected to see Subaru gain greater access to its partner’s formidable R&D operations.
According to various reports – which neither Subaru nor Toyota have verified – the Evoltis will be a coupe-like crossover about the size of the current Crosstrek. That said, it is unlikely the two utility vehicles will have much in common as Evoltis will ride on the skateboard-like platform that is now the industry norm for BEVs. That layout provides plenty of room for a battery pack which, with the Subaru Evoltis, is expected to deliver about 300 miles range.
The platform will be flexible enough to eventually accommodate multiple products, Subaru officials told a group of reporters gathered at a technical briefing last January.
Some reports suggest the BEV will punch out 280 horsepower – and likely gobs of torque. It is unclear whether it will be a single or twin-motor design. But, considering that only the BRZ sports car, of all Subaru products, does not offer all-wheel-drive, it would seem a reasonably safe bet to expect the Evoltis to mount separate motors on each axle, at least as an option.
The BRZ, of course, is shared with Toyota as the little 86 model. It would seem quite likely that a version of the new Subaru battery-electric vehicle might come paired with a Toyota offering, something that several of the company’s executives have hinted at in conversations with TheDetroitBureau.com in recent months. That approach would certainly help spread out the costs for both engineering and manufacturing.
Toyota itself has been extremely skeptical about all-electric propulsion and, in particular, lithium-ion battery technology. But the industry giant knows it can’t continue to hold out considering the way global government regulations are heading. It already has plug-in, lithium-powered versions of several models, including the Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime, and has strongly hinted it will have a BEV coming over the next couple of years.
There are even hints that it could work with another partner, Mazda, which is in much the same boat as Subaru, needing to finally begin electrifying its line-up on a significant scale. It would surprise few if the underlying architecture for the Subaru Evoltis wound up being used by all three of the manufacturers.
If Evoltis does make its debut in Tokyo late next year it would be slated to hit market amidst a broad wave of all-electric vehicles. The question is whether there will be a customer base for it. BEV sales have continued to lag and the ongoing plunge in oil prices certainly isn’t helping. But whether that situation would stretch on into the 2022 model-year is far from certain. What is clear is that a production Subaru Evoltis would be facing lots of new competition.