Toyota’s first long-range battery-electric vehicle, the bZ4X, will reach U.S. showrooms by mid-2022, the automaker says, with the new model capable of delivering more than 300 miles per charge in its single-motor version.
Roughly the same overall length as the automaker’s familiar RAV4 — though its wheelbase is 6 inches longer — one of the more distinctive features of the all-electric crossover will be its yoke. Until now, only the Tesla Model S Plaid used that alternative to a steering wheel.
The automaker showed a prototype of its battery-powered crossover earlier this year but has only now revealed specific details about the bZ4X which, it says, takes a “practical and sustainable” approach to electrification. The bZ stands for “Beyond Zero,” the 4 represents its size, while the X signals it is a crossover.
An all-electric family
Ultimately, Toyota plans to offer seven different models in the Beyond Zero family, with additional eight all-electric models using different badges. The carmaker also will expand its line-up of hydrogen fuel-cell models beyond the current Mirai nameplate.
“By 2030, 15% of our sales will be battery-electric or fuel-cell electrics,” Jack Hollis, senior vice president of North American automotive operations, said in June.
Toyota has actually been one of the more reluctant manufacturers in turns of going fully electric, something many critics see as ironic considering it launched the world’s first hybrid, the Prius. Global CEO Akio Toyoda contends the best solution is a mix of conventional and plug-in hybrids, as well as BEVs and hydrogen vehicles.
Partnership with Subaru
When it debuts next year, the bZ4X will follow what has become the industry norm, riding on a unique, skateboard-like platform dubbed the e-TNGA. It has been developed jointly by Toyota and its sometimes-partner Subaru which will introduce a battery vehicle of its own, the Soltera, in the coming year.
Subaru played a primary role in developing the drivetrain that the two models will share — though they each will get unique body and interior designs.
The system will be offered in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. The single-motor setup will yield as much as 500 kilometers per charge, or about 310 miles, using a 71.4 kilowatt-hour battery. It will deliver 2201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, enough to launch it from 0-100 kmh (62 mph) in 8.4 seconds. The all-wheel-drive package climbs to 215 hp and 248 lb-ft. That will get it to 100 kmh in 7.7 seconds. But range drops to a factory-estimated 280 miles.
Those range numbers are based on the global WLTP standard. Typically, U.S. EPA ratings come in around 20% to 25% lower.
The bZ4X will be able to charge using standard Level 1 and Level 2 chargers, as well as public quick chargers at up to 150 kilowatts. The latter would permit going to 80% of capacity in as little as 30 minutes. Toyota claims its battery pack should retain up to 90% of its initial capacity after a decade of clocking as much as 15,000 miles per year.
Like most new battery-electric vehicles, the bZ4X has an almost completely grille-less nose. Narrow, almost slit-like headlamps are framed by lacquer-black cladding that flows over the front wheels. The doors feature a high beltline and distinctive creases, while the relatively flat roof tapers into a high, wind-cheating spoiler.
The cabin adopts a minimalist design, with only a handful of conventional controls. Most of the heavy lifting is done using a large touchscreen atop the center console. In what appears to be a first for Toyota, the system also appears to have an iDrive-like control knob. The production version will access an all-new infotainment system Toyota is preparing to release, one featuring an Amazon Alexa-like voice assistant. A second digital display floats behind the steering wheel, replacing conventional gauges.
The yoke’s on Toyota
The yoke, however, is the crossover’s most distinctive feature. It remains to be seen if it will be offered in all markets but Toyota claims it is easy to use, turning the vehicle from lock to lock in just 150 degrees. That’s made possible by use of a steer-by-wire system, rather than having a mechanical link between the yoke and the front wheels.
As has become the norm in the BEV market, the Toyota bZ4X will be equipped to take smartphone-style over-the-air updates. It also will be offered with an optional sunroof in some markets.