Beyond Zero: Toyota's Electric Future
Toyota has officially announced their plans for an electric future with their "Beyond Zero" initiative. In a press conference led by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda at the MEGA Web theme park/dealership in Odaiba, Japan ; a plan to make a majority of Toyota/Lexus products carbon neutral by adopting EV technology was explained. For the Toyota brand, the goal is to have 30 battery EVs by 2030 in what will coincide with 100% of new car sales in the North American market consisting of said vehicles. Furthermore, Lexus plans on going all-electric by 2030 as well, not just in North America, Europe, and China; but globally as they focus on stamping the Lexus driving signature on their BEVs. As a company, Toyota also plans on becoming completely carbon-neutral by 2035 by reducing energy use throughout its' facilities and manufacturing processes as they continue to innovate their mobility portfolio.
During the presentation, a row of almost production-ready prototypes were situated behind Morizo-san, the recently announced bZ4X, bZ compact SUV, bZ small crossover, bZ SDN and bZ Large SUV. After Mr. Toyoda discussed the vehicles just behind him, a curtain was raised to unveil a plethora of Toyota and Lexus BEV prototypes that are seemingly headed to production at some point in the future. All of the vehicles on-stage have placed Toyota in a good position on the BEV journey with some designs garnering some serious attention from enthusiasts, so let's dig into the full line-up below.
The Toyota bZ4X is the first modern BEV to be released by the company, by mid-2022 we should start seeing these very futuristic-looking SUVs on the road. A bold, tech-forward design isn't the only thing to rave about, a 250 mile range is expected from the 71.4 kWh battery pack that propels the 150kW motor on the front-drive model. Along with the standard Toyota Safety Sense package, Toyota and ingenuity is seen throughout the rest of the vehicle with carefully placed mobile device charging ports, over-the-air vehicle updates, and compatibility with high output charges; that means an 80% charge within an hour. The bZ4X is expected to be as capable on-road as other current Toyota offerings in the same segment with the all-wheel drive model offering the ability to traverse more difficult terrain as one would expect from a modern SUV.
Toyota bZ Compact SUV:
Not many details were released for the Toyota bZ Compact SUV concept but by the looks of it, it is a CH-R sized BEV with a very bold look. A two-tone paint scheme with a black roof is similar to what is currently seen on the CH-R, it lends for an upscale, modern look. Expect to see this vehicle as an entry-point for many into the BEV world.
Toyota bZ Small Crossover:
This concept is admittedly cute, its' proportions are meant for Japanese and European roads so it's unlikely to appear in U.S. dealerships.
Toyota bZ SDN:
The bZ SDN is Toyota's attempt at a midsize sedan with proportions similar to the current generation Corolla. This would still have a huge market for buyers as vehicles like the Corolla and Camry still sell in large numbers, this one in particular will have some futuristic Beyond Zero styling cues while riding on the e-TNGA platform.
Toyota bZ Large SUV:
If the Toyota Highlander was offered as an EV you would essentially get the bZ Large SUV. The styling continues on this vehicles as it does with other Toyota EV offerings, it has a strong resemblance to the production-ready bZ4X, but with added size and a third row. Expect this vehicle to launch before mid-decade as it is sure to sell in large quantities.
Micro Box & Mid Box:
The Micro and Mid Box concepts look to fit commercial customer needs, the Micro perhaps well suited to hauling people; the Mid meant for local deliveries. Specific details like many of the other details were not given but these two vehicles would likely not see use as a normal consumer vehicle...but it would be interesting.
The beauty of EV platforms is the ability to place an motor wherever needed, so when this beautifully sculpted design was unveiled, it instantly shouted MR2! The Toyota Sports EV looks aggressive, is the right size for a sports car, and has those raised rear haunches that seemingly denote a rear mounted motor. While it may not be a conventional sports car as we know now with an ICE under the hood; the GR badge upfront tells us that if it makes a production run it will be a serious competitor in tomorrow's sports BEV sector.
The Toyota Crossover EV concept looks to be about the same proportions of a RAV4 or bZ4X, but with more rounded styling, including a sloping coupe-like roofline. Unlike the bZ4X, this concept shares a likeness with many of the other concepts however it also looks ready for showroom floors. It's possible we see something like this for sale in the coming years, it's a good looking vehicle that will most likely be built on the bZ4X platform.
Compact Cruiser EV:
Possibly everyone's favorite concept of the bunch is the Compact Cruiser EV, this is a slightly smaller follow-up to the beloved FJ Cruiser, but riding on an EV platform. It's rugged looks and design cues pick up where the FJ Cruiser left off and the ill fated FT-4X concepts from years ago that never made it to production. With retro styled SUVs being all the rage, it would be a no-brainer for Toyota to build this vehicle finally, with or without an EV drivetrain.
Look familiar? The Pickup EV is a lightly disguised Toyota Tacoma, but that's not a bad thing. Imagine having the same usability of the venerable Tacoma but with an electric motor powering two or four wheels, it could work for many. The workhorse and do-all vehicle for North American Toyota owners could be a toss-up between the 4Runner and its' Tacoma sibling, this is another vehicle that we know will be going into production by the end of the decade that may add another layer to the next generation Toyota pickup model.
Much like the bZ Small Crossover, the Small SUEV or "sport utility EV" is similar in size to a Yaris/CH-R but shares design language with other concepts. Future BEV owners will have to contest for space in major cities as they do now so a smallish SUV with these proportions may fit the mold of the perfect city lifestyle vehicle, enough clearance for bad roads yet small enough to fit near a charging station.
The upscale version of the bZ4X is the Lexus RZ, more specifically the RZ 450e which was previewed late last year during Design Miami. The RZ features Direct4 all-wheel drive which incorporates an added level of control from both front and rear electric motors, as well as brakes to add an extra layer of performance and safety. A new drive-by-wire system will appear on the RZ as well as Lexus' signature interior touches which deliver luxurious comfort to all of those lucky enough to have a seat.
Lexus Electrified SUV:
The Lexus Electrified SUV could very well end up being named the GZ. From pictures it looks to have similar proportions to the GX model currently sold and would provide a large enough vehicle in the lineup for the all-electric future Lexus is creating by 2030.
Lexus Electrified Sedan:
Lexus is not giving up on the sedan, with the ability to modulate platforms to fit different market needs, many countries will be able to get a chance to own the Lexus Electrified Sedan. With the Lexus lineup getting a charge to go electric (pun intended), a sedan would fit the lineup perfectly to replace the current IS which will be nearing the end by the middle of the decade. What will Lexus name it? The IZ? ISZ? With the aggressive front fascia, two-toned wheels, and sculpted sides; it'll easily find homes regardless of the name.
Lexus Electrified Sport:
The Lexus Electrified Sport is simply beautiful, it shares styling cues with the other "Z" concepts, but with an elongated hood, menacing front end, motorsports wheels, and massive air ducts front and rear. Lexus may have its' first "F" in their Z lineup with this vehicle if it ever sees the light of day, it has classical sports car/grand touring proportions with a modern drivetrain; an electric car with a sublime driving experience.
Toyota is using a multi-faceted approach to curb CO2 emissions through the production of carbon-reducing and carbon-neutral vehicles. Carbon-reducing vehicles can essentially be BEVs but with manufacturing processes or power sources that are still not 100% carbon-neutral. A carbon-neutral vehicle will essentially have its' parts sourced, assembled, transported, and driven without adding any more carbon to the environment than what was already put in. The Paris Agreement has challenged many nations to come up with a plan to prevent global warming due carbon-emission reduction, and as automobile sales rise it has been the easiest target to help save the planet. In Toyota's vast portfolio of technologies also exists the use of hydrogen, in fuel cell electric vehicles, and as a fuel for internal combustion engines as seen in the Corolla race car for the 24 hour Super Taikyu race this past summer. A global problem demands a global solution, Akio Toyoda has ensured that the company he has been entrusted with uses all their resources to develop plans for every market to reach these important goals. Toyota has invested in battery technology since the mid 1990's, released their first EV in 1996 with the RAV4 EV, helped reduce fuel usage with the introduction of the Toyota Prius shortly after, tested the use of hydrogen as a fuel source since 2001 as they do today with the latest Mirai, and continuously develop technologies to help harvest clean energy. The next step of course is to make sure that the products developed by Toyota and Lexus not only serve the purpose of saving the planet but stir the emotions of the drivers behind the wheel.
*All photos provided by Noriaki Mitsuhashi/N-RAK Photo Agency*