Toyota delivered a teaser image today of the all-electric X Prologue SUV set to debut on March 17.
The Japanese giant offered few details about the new battery-electric vehicle. One certainty is that Toyota is preparing to roll out its first global BEV since it offered a short-lived version of the RAV4 a decade ago.
Currently, Toyota offers only one fully electric model, the UX300e, and only in China. Though the company was a pioneer of electrification, CEO Akio Toyoda has been a vocal skeptic of BEV technology, preferring to focus on conventional and plug-in hybrids.
Toyota plans to have electrified versions of essentially all of its model lines before mid-decade, with a goal of selling 4.5 million hybrids by no later than 2030. But, with all of its key rivals launching BEVs, and regulators in many major markets laying out plans to ban the sale of vehicles using internal combustion engines, Toyota also has said it aims to sell 1 million BEVs by decade’s end.
Partnering with Subaru
The company has done little to hide that it is developing a battery-electric car that will roughly match the size of the current RAV4 crossover. Industry observers believe the project pairs Toyota with Subaru which will launch its own version under the nameplate Evoltis.
Both models will ride atop the new e-TNGA platform, an all-electric variant of the TNGA architecture now used for a broad range of Toyota products, including the familiar Prius hybrid. Eventually, sources indicate, as many as six separate BEVs will ride atop the skateboard-style e-TNGA. The X Prologue is expected to be followed by a smaller, all-electric crossover.
The terse teaser released out of Belgium on Wednesday raised far more questions than it answered. For one thing, it is unclear whether the X Prologue set to debut at 10 a.m. CET will be a concept vehicle or the final production model.
Plenty of questions to answer
Also uncertain is whether it will be earmarked for global distribution or just for Europe where EV sales have been growing rapidly. Toyota is expected to market a BEV in the U.S. over the next several years, whatever its plans for the X Prologue.
Range is another question. The old RAV4 EV – which used a Tesla-derived drivetrain – managed barely 100 miles per charge. These days, demand for short-range models is withering, most new products topping 200 miles between charges and Tesla now offering over 400 miles for a version of the Model S sedan.
Then there’s the issue of power and performance. It’s not known how many motors the X Prologue will feature, what sort of power it will make and whether it will be driven by a single axle or offer all-wheel-drive. It’s becoming increasingly common to offer buyers options when it comes to both drivetrain configuration and battery pack size, an approach Toyota might take.
Toyota’s first EV missed the mark
The old RAV4 EV didn’t exactly set the world on fire, with only 2,489 of the electric crossovers sold in the U.S. between September 2011 and April 2015 when it was pulled from the market. It didn’t help that Toyota limited availability to a handful of states with strict zero-emissions standards, notably California.
The automaker was the first to bring a hybrid to market two decades ago and remains the best-selling producer of that technology, demand growing rapidly during the last several years as it launched an assortment of new models.
But Toyota has been one of the rare manufacturers still resisting a shift to pure electric propulsion. By comparison, General Motors plans to have 30 all-electric models on the road by 2025 and to go entirely BEV by 2035. Volkswagen will introduce 50 BEVs through its various brands by mid-decade.
Toyota CEO dismisses BEVs
In contrast, CEO Toyoda generated significant controversy last December when he declared that a switch to battery-electric vehicles would cause “the current business of the car industry … to collapse.” In his role as head of a key Japanese automotive trade group, the grandson of the automaker’s founder also denounced claims that EVs would help the environment, declaring “The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets.”
But facing a shifting market and tough new emissions standards, Toyota appears to have decided it has no choice but to follow the rest of the industry into the BEV market.