Tokyo - Toyota might have been a hybrid car pioneer, but when it comes to fully electric vehicles the Japanese carmaker has lagged behind, seemingly because it had counted on hydrogen fuel cells as being the next big thing.
But better late than never, Toyota is now committing to the world’s electric car push with its first mass-market EV, which is called the bZ4X. Revealed in production guise on Friday, the new electric SUV looks almost identical to the concept car that was unveiled earlier this year. An almost-identical Subaru version is also on the cards thanks to a new partnership that aims to rein in the high cost of developing new EVs.
Built on a new EV-dedicated platform called e-TNGA, the Toyota bZ4X is the first in a series of battery-powered models that the Japanese carmaker plans to launch in the coming years.
Measuring 4690mm in length and 1860mm in width, the Toyota bZ4X is slightly larger than the combustion-engined Rav4, and the electric car is said to have a spacious interior with D-segment rivalling practicality.
But, crucially, how far can it go on a charge? Toyota has announced both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants of the bZ4X, and former offers a claimed cruising range of around 500km on the WLTC cycle, and the latter is good for around 460km.
Boasting a system output of 150kW, the FWD model sprints from 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds, while the 160kW AWD variant (featuring 80kW motors on each axle) does its dash in 7.7 seconds.
An interesting feature in the new Toyota bZ4X is the drive-by-wire ‘yoke’ steering wheel, which has no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and wheels. This will apparently be an option in some of the high-end versions, in certain markets.
Toyota says it is aiming to launch 15 fully electric vehicles by 2025, but unlike many other carmakers, which are planning to go all-electric by the end of the decade or soon thereafter, Toyota is taking a more cautious approach to electrification. In fact it is believed that in 2030, fully-electric vehicles will account for just 25 percent of the company’s ‘electrified’ vehicle sales, which means that hybrid will still be the dominant powertrain source.
The Toyota bZ4X is set to hit key international markets around the middle of 2022. But will it come to South Africa? “No official word on BZ4x timing for SA as yet,” a TSA representative told IOL. “Our Product Planning team are currently working on a NEV strategy – but we cannot confirm models and timing at this stage”.