Once at the helm of sustainability in the automotive sector with its hybrid cars, the Japanese automaker Toyota now has to play catch up with the likes of Tesla in the electric vehicle (EV) segment. Hoping to regain its spot at the top, the carmaker has now unveiled its first EV, an SUV with a solar roof.
Committed to reducing emissions from its automobiles and aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050, Toyota claims to have taken a measured approach to introduce sustainable cars that do not just rely on just one technology. Unlike other EV makers that are betting on batteries to power their cars for the foreseeable future, Toyota wants to offer its customers a full line powered by batteries, hybrids as well as hydrogen fuel cells, said a company press release.
The first of its offerings is the bZX4, a battery-powered SUV in its bZ or Beyond Zero series. Co-developed with another Japanese carmaker Subaru, the cars are based on Toyota's e-TNGA philosophy that uses a new generation architecture to improve car performance and product appeal.
The battery unit is incorporated into the vehicle's chassis to improve the center of gravity and offer front-rear balance. With cabin dimensions of 1,940 x 1,515 mm, the SUV offers spacious seating for five along with plenty of boot space. The hammerhead shark-inspired front design not only gives the car a stylish stance but also improves the visibility for the driver, the company claims.
The vehicle will be available in two variants, a front-wheel-drive (FWD), and an all-wheel-drive (AWD). The FWD version is powered by a single 150kW motor that can accelerate from 0-60 mph (0-100 kph) in 8.4 seconds while this AWD counterpart, with an 80kW motor on each axle, can achieve the same acceleration in 7.7 seconds.
The 71.4 kWh Lithium-ion battery pack on these cars will offer a range of 310 miles (500 km) on the FWD and 285 miles (460 km) on the AWD. Compatible with 150kW DC chargers, the battery pack can be charged from 0-80 percent in just 30 minutes, the company claims. Toyota is also confident that even after ten years of driving, the dip in its battery's performance will only be a marginal ten percent.
For the first time, Toyota will introduce withe steer-by-wire system that removes the mechanical linkage between the steering wheel and front wheel. The change will improve legroom for the driver, make operation smoother since a full lock can be achieved in a 150-degree turn, the company said.
Available as an add-on for users, the bZX4 can be equipped with a solar roof that can trap enough power in a year to enable 1,118 miles (1,800 km) of driving, Toyota claims. For the car owner, this can reduce the dependence on charger networks and the EV can charge in a parking lot while you shop inside. Interestingly, the power generated by the roof and captured in the car's battery can be sent through a bidirectional charger to power your home in an emergency or on a regular basis, that is, if your home is solar-powered too, the company said.
The bZX4 is expected to launch by mid-2022.