Toyota is a really interesting company. With an annual production rate of close to 10 million vehicles, they have sold just 10,000 electric vehicles. Today they announced a roadmap that sets out to change all that, now committing to produce 30 different models of fully-electric vehicles by 2030.
While all automakers are facing the massive task of transitioning legacy businesses to the the next generation products, Toyota has been one of the most fierce resisters of EVs.
Toyota bet big on hydrogen and it now seems obvious that they backed the wrong horse, with EVs clearly the popular choice, so whether it’s the market trend, or the fact Toyota’s October 2021 YoY sales are down 20% globally and 42% in Japan, but something just changed inside that company.
There’s a new term at Toyota – bZ which standard for ‘Beyond Zero’ referring to the aspiration to not just move to zero emission, but to go even further. The first of Toyota’s new EVs will be known as the ‘bZ 4X’, an SUV that’s being jointly developed with Subaru and is expected to be released in 2022.
The bZ line will also feature a ‘compact SUV’ which features a modern, streamlined, aero-efficient look, while a ‘small crossover’, designed with Japan and Europe in mind. Akio Toyoda, President & CEO of Toyota spent a lot of time talking about making efficient vehicles, with the consequence of less efficiency being additional weight, cost and less range. Toyota is targeting 125Wh/km. By comparison, the Tesla Model 3 today gets 139Wh/km, so this is a seriously ambitious target, great to see.
Toyota also showed off a ‘bZ Large SUV’ as part of their concept vehicle lineup today. This would include a 3rd row of seating and while the concept is likely to change considerably before it hits the road, is also attractive and future-leaning in its design.
One of the biggest criticisms with EVs is the cost and a manufacturer like Toyota is clearly focused on attacking the affordability problem. Another technique is to simply put less battery cells in the car, given the battery pack still accounts for the single biggest expense in an EV.
Toyota’s premium brand Lexus, will transition to a fully-electric brand, similar to what Volvo did with Polestar.
The first all-electric vehicle from the brand will be an SUV, the Lexus RZ.
Koji Sato, President, Lexus International, Chief Branding Officer says the Lexus Driving Signature will not change even if it is a Battery EV. In a very Toyota-way, they are describing their performance variances as ‘Sports Battery EV’.
Also shown, is a concept for a sports cars that would compete with the Tesla Model S Plaid. With bold proportions and low ride height essential to a sports car, it will showcase the unique driving performance of a Lexus and become a model that symbolizes the future of the brand.
Sato went on to list some seriously big numbers, like acceleration time in the low 2 second range, and a cruising range of over 700km.
Those numbers would be incredible and beat virtually everything on the market today, but here’s the catch, they are enabled by the as yet, unproven use of solid-state batteries. This could mean it’s multiple years before we see the Lexus RZ on the road but it is clear that the direction of Lexus will be performance and luxury combined on an EV platform and that’s an exciting future.
While I’d hope to see all 30 passenger and commercial nameplates come to Australia, it is clear, we are but a drop in the ocean globally and its safe to say we won’t see all options available down under.
Toyota aims to achieve global sales of 3.5 million battery EVs per year by 2030. This transition doesn’t come cheap, with an estimated price tag of around $70 Billion to execute Toyota’s electrification plan.