Toyota doesn’t get a lot of love around CleanTechnica headquarters. Quite often, while noshing on watercress and grape leaf sandwiches in the lunch room, the staff can be heard grumbling about the company’s unshakable commitment to last century hybrids and always-a-decade-away hydrogen fuel cell cars. So far, its commitment to battery electric vehicles has been grudging at best.
The Toyota bZ4X (bZ stands for “Beyond Zero”) battery electric SUV was introduced at the Shanghai auto show earlier this year. We know it will be built on Toyota’s e-TNGA EV platform that supposedly will be the basis for up to 15 battery electric models by 2025. We know it has pleasantly appealing styling that breaks no new ground. In fact, it is not much of a departure from the current RAV4. The designers were supposedly influenced by the hammerhead shark when they created the front end of the new car, but at least the nuclear-powered cheese grater look that is so popular on many Toyota and Lexus models is not carried over.
This week, Toyota provided some details about the car. It will have a 71.4 kWh battery. One version will offer a single front-mounted motor with 201 hp (150 kW), a 0–100 km/h time of 8.4 seconds, and a range of 310 miles. The dual motor version will have 214 hp (160 kW), a 0–100 km/h time of 7.7 seconds, and a range of 285 miles. Those range numbers are estimates based on the WLTP standard. EPA range numbers, when available, will likely be lower. Maximum charging power is 150 kilowatts, and Toyota says the battery can be recharged to 80% capacity in 30 minutes.
Speaking of availability, the bZ4X (that name doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it?) will be available first in Japan starting in the middle of next year. Toyota has not yet officially confirmed that it will be available in North America, but why wouldn’t it be?
What we do know is that the car will have some interesting options. One, it will be available with a solar roof that Toyota claims can add 1,800 kilometers of free sun-powered driving a year (depending on how sunny it is in your part of the world and whether you park indoors).
Two, the car will be available with a yoke-type steering device with only an electronic connection to the front wheels. Cars equipped with a conventional steering wheel will still have a conventional steering column. Unlike the yoke unveiled recently by Tesla, the Toyota system only requires the yoke to turn 150 degrees in order to move the front wheels completely left or right. Toyota claims its system will make U turns faster. In this case, the new system may be an answer to a question no one is asking. According to Motor Trend, the yoke will first be available to Chinese customers. Whether it will be offered in other markets is unknown at this time.
The interior of the bZ4X is fairly conventional, with an instrument cluster mounted high in front of the driver and an infotainment screen floating in the middle of the dash. There are plenty of knobs and switches for drivers and passengers alike to play with, unlike the trend begun by Tesla to move most control functions to the central touchscreen.
No pricing information has been provided yet, but the bZ4X will have to be competitive with the new Nissan Ariya, which goes on sale in Japan soon. It is priced at between $45,000 and $60,000 after government incentives.
We continue to think Toyota is dragging its feet, and we are none too pleased that the company has been actively lobbying against the Biden administration’s plans to move the EV revolution forward. Still, the bZ4X appears to be a competent first attempt and a welcome addition to the Toyota lineup. It gets one thumb up from us — good, but not great, in other words.