Toyota officially unveiled its second long-range battery-electric vehicle — but that’s small comfort for American buyers looking for an electric sedan as the bZ3 is specifically targeted at the Chinese market.
But the automaker may have something of a consolation prize coming. It’s now released a teaser image showing a similarly sized all-electric hatchback that, according to several sources, should be coming to the U.S. market in the not-too-distant future.
What seems clear is that Toyota is intent on countering critics who feel it has been too slow to get into the emerging EV market. As TheDetroitBureau.com reported earlier this week, the Japanese automaker is in the midst of an internal study that could lead to major changes in its electrification program.
Taking aim at Tesla
The bZ3 model heading to China appears aimed at the likes of the Tesla Model 3. It’s being produced as part of a joint venture pairing Toyota with two local manufacturers: First Automobile Works and Build Your Dreams, the latter better known by its initials, BYD.
The second Toyota EV shares the same, skateboard-like architecture as the bZ4X crossover that went on sale earlier this year. (That e-TNGA platform will be used for a wide variety of all-electric Toyota models, at least under the electrification program CEO Akio Toyoda announced last December.)
According to Toyota, the bZ3 will be capable of delivering “600+ kilometers” of range, or 370 miles, per charge. That’s a significant number considering it’s powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries which tend to deliver less range than the lithium-ion cells found in the original bZ4X. The crossover model is rated at just 250 miles.
The bZ3 is lighter and more aerodynamic, and it’s offered only with a single motor. But the estimated range is also based on the global WLTP standard. Were it to come to the U.S., it likely would get an EPA rating of about 300 miles.
By the numbers
Significantly, Toyota estimates the new model will retain 90% of its range “even after 10 years.”
The automaker has not yet released powertrain details — though the lack of the “X” designator in the model name suggests it will be offered only with a single electric motor.
The bZ3 measures about 186 inches in length, with a 113.4-inch wheelbase. It stands 58.1 inches in height and has a width of 72.2 inches. That’s comparable to the bZ4X in every dimension but height, the electric sedan sitting about a foot lower.
Like the bZ4X, the new bZ3 features a lounge-like interior design that takes advantage of the e-TNGA layout — which moves batteries and motors below the load floor. It has a class-larger interior than its compact footprint might suggest, as well as a flat load floor.
Mystery EV teased
The decision to focus on only the Chinese market doesn’t come as a complete surprise. China remains one of the few places where sedans still have real traction with buyers.
The EV shown in the new teaser image is another matter entirely. It’s hard to tell from the dark pic whether this would fall into the coupe-crossover or hatchback category. Either way, it should have a broader global appeal.
There’s no easy way of determining the size of the new model but it does appear to adopt some distinctive exterior design details meant to give it a sportier appearance than either the bZ4X or bZ3.
What’s curious is that this model did not appear among the 16 EV prototypes Toyota revealed during CEO Toyoda’s presentation last December.
Toyota rethinks its electrification strategy
But it appears the automaker’s electrification program is undergoing some serious changes.
Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota’s founder, has long been an EV skeptic, repeatedly stressing his belief that the best way to address automotive emissions is with a mix of hybrids, battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
But that has generated significant pushback from environmental groups like Greenpeace, as well as from some large investors.
Reuters this week reported that a secret study is underway within the company that could lead to significant changes in Toyota’s approach to electrification. One possibility would be speeding up the shift to all-electric propulsion. But the project, reportedly led by former Chief Competitive Officer Shigeki Terashi. Is also looking for ways to reduce EV production costs to help make the technology more competitive.