Subaru this week announced its first battery electric car will arrive in US showrooms in the middle of next year. It currently sells a plug-in hybrid version of the CrossTrek that has 17 miles of range and 35 mpg EPA combined fuel economy rating. In other words, it’s a generation (or two) behind the 2014 Chevy Volt.
The all-electric platform has been developed jointly with Toyota, which owns a major chunk of Subaru. Toyota calls it e-TNGA and Subaru will call its version the e-Subaru Global Platform. As such, it is expected to be closely related to the production version of the Toyota bZ-4X concept car that was introduced at the Shanghai Auto Show this spring. In fact, the two cars look like clones of each other. Frankly, almost every electric SUV looks like every other electric SUV today. It’s getting harder to tell the players without a scorecard.
No details have been revealed except what is shown in the highly stylized photos shown on the company’s website. The car will be called Solterra, an amalgam of the Latin words for sun and Earth. Green Car Reports says it’s expected to be about the length and overall size of the current Forester with a lower roofline and a large glass roof.
Inside is a horizontal touchscreen with capacitive buttons for climate controls below. In the photo of the interior, a new generation of steering wheel controls is visible along with a separate digital gauge instrument cluster ahead of the driver.
Subaru says the Solterra will feature its signature Symmetrical All Wheel Drive, which means it will have two electric motors, one for the rear wheels and another for the front wheels. The company calls the Solterra “the natural evolution of Subaru all weather, all road performance.” It will have “plenty of ground clearance” and will be the most technologically advanced Subaru ever with “ample” rear seat and cargo space.
Which reminds me of an anecdote. An urban Chrysler dealer had a very small lot. Parking for customers was always problematic and the dealership was always downrated in surveys because of that shortcoming. One day, the owner decided to address the problem. A huge new sign was mounted outside proclaiming “Ample Free Parking.” The complaints ceased.
One thing the Solterra won’t have is a frunk. The Toyota-developed platform leaves no room for one, which may be a significant drawback for EV shoppers who expect a front storage compartment as found on all Tesla models and the upcoming Ford F-150 electric pickup truck. Snazzy exterior styling may not be enough to make up for the lack of that amenity.
Forgive me for being irreverent, but with the green color shown in the press photos, the profusion of ferns, and the severe overbite appearance of the front end, the Solterra looks a lot like Kermit The Frog. That won’t stop hordes of Vermonters from buying one. Subaru is pretty much the official car of the Green Mountain State. Whether that look will play in Peoria remains to be seen.
Prices? Range? Battery size? Charging speed? Patience, grasshopper. All will be revealed in due time. When we know more, you will know more. Does this mean Toyota is about to get serious about building electric cars? Puh…leese. Toyota executives dream at night of a world filled with cars that say “Synergy Drive” on the back. Maybe in 2035.…