Toyota presents future of ‘beyond zero’ EVs with bZ4X Concept
In Shanghai, Toyota has presented its bZ4X Concept, an unpronounceable name for the next generation of battery-electric cars, it wants to roll out up to 2025 with the ‘beyond zero’ (bZ) label. By then, Toyota plans to launch 15 battery-electric vehicles, of which seven of the ‘bZ family’.
The bZ4X will be built on the new e-TNGA modular platform, developed specifically for electric vehicles. For this compact, medium-sized SUV, which should hit the market by mid-2022, Subaru lent a helping hand with the four-wheel-drive system.
One of the most striking features is not the exterior, but the interior with the airplane-like ‘steering wheel’ and an instrument panel just in the line of sight of the driver’s view on the road.
As a matter of fact, Toyota’s bZ4X Concept “will be available with a world-first combination in a mass-produced car of a steering yoke and a steer-by-wire system,” the press release states. And it will be the Chinese that have the honor to try it out first.
“This technology gives the driver greater control, removing interference from rough road surfaces and braking, thereby giving a more precise response in line with the vehicle’s speed and steering angle.”
Solar charging system
Toyota didn’t specify many technical details, like battery size or expected ranges, but states that the bZ4X will feature an ‘on-board solar charging system’ that extends the capabilities of ‘the larger, more powerful battery’.
With seven of the new bZ model family, Toyota finally gears up in BEVs, promising a total of 15 fully battery-electric models by 2025, after sticking stubbornly to hybrid technology, of which it is the all-time pioneer.
Started 20 years ago
Just a few weeks ago, Johan van Zyl the South African CEO of Toyota Europe who is soon returning to his home country to (re)lead the company over there, hinted at the new future in an interview with the British car magazine Autocar.
“I think the road is quite clear in Europe: the move towards electrification is not something new for us. We started many years ago with this, but I think we’ll see some acceleration now.”
More hybrids and PHEVs
“More hybrids will enter the market, more plug-in hybrids and of course battery-electric vehicles as well, and Toyota will do the same,” he adds. “2030 seems to be a very long time away, but it’s not, it’s two model lifecycles, and then we’re there.”
“We want to sell a million zero-emission vehicles by 2025, so we’ve already pulled forward our plan. The original target was 2030, and now it’s 2025. In Europe, for instance, at least ten electric models will be launched.”
Blowing hot and cold
The grandson of Toyota’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, and now President and CEO of the company, said Japan would run out of electricity in the summer if all cars were running on electric power.
The infrastructure needed to support a 100 percent EV fleet would cost Japan between 14 trillion and 37 trillion yen ($135 billion to $358 billion), he estimated. And most of the country’s electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, anyway, so it’s not necessarily helping the environment.