Toyota has released new details about its upcoming electric compact SUV, the BZ4X. These include an optional solar roof and a steering wheel similar to the latest version of the Tesla Model S.
The steering bar, which Toyota describes as “wing-shaped,” uses a steer-by-wire system without a mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the tires. The yoke only has to rotate up to 150 degrees from side to side, and the driver never has to take their hands away. This eliminates the need to switch grips when steering, which makes turning and other manoeuvres easier.
The BZ4X will be built on a flexible platform Toyota developed in collaboration with Japanese automaker Subaru. (Toyota currently owns a small stake in Subaru.) The e-TNGA platform will enable several features, including a steer-by-wire system, all-wheel drive, improved visibility, and a regenerative braking system common to electric vehicles. Toyota said the BZ4X would be launched globally by mid-2022. Subaru is reportedly developing its electric cars built on the e-TNGA platform.
Standard Steering Wheel
The BZ4X will also have a standard steering wheel and system for those not interested in a complete steering wheel. (The Model S’s steering wheel controls are controversial, as they can make driving uncomfortable.)
The car’s interior features a unique instrument cluster with the screen set back from the steering wheel, which Toyota says improves driver visibility. The central infotainment screen appears to float above the dashboard rather than being embedded in it. And there are several physical buttons in the centre console and on the steering wheel, evidence that Toyota is not fully embracing the digital user experience like companies like Tesla.
In designing the exterior of the BZ4X, Toyota’s designers took inspiration from the hammerhead shark. However, it still maintains a conventional shape and resembles a Toyota RAV4 in terms of size.
The BZ4X will come with two powertrains: a 201-horsepower front-wheel drive and a 215-horsepower all-wheel drive with an estimated range of 310 and 286 miles per charge, respectively. (These estimates are based on WLTC global ratings, which tend to be higher than estimates from EPA). The vehicle is equipped with a 71.4-kWh battery pack, comparable in energy capacity to the Volkswagen ID 4 and Nissan Ariya.
Other fancy options, such as a solar roof that Toyota says can generate electricity “equivalent to driving 1,800 km per year.” The car can also be charged bidirectionally, similar to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ford F-150 Lightning, for vehicle-to-door capacity.
The electric SUV is expected to launch initially in Japan in mid-2022. However, Toyota has not yet said whether it will also be available in the US. More details on pricing and production are expected in the coming months.
The news follows Toyota’s announcement that it will invest around $13.6 billion in battery technology over the next decade, including $9 billion in production, to electrify its vehicle lineup. Although the company was an early leader in gas-powered hybrid cars with the Prius, it considered hybrids a stopgap until hydrogen fuel cells became competitive. The company is catching up to Nissan and has reportedly lobbied to slow the US transition to electric vehicles.
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