Toyota’s new electric SUV features a solar roof and a steering yoke similar to Tesla’s
The Japanese automaker’s first all-electric vehicle.
Toyota has revealed new information about its upcoming electric compact SUV, the BZ4X, which will feature an optional solar roof and a steering yoke similar to the one found in the latest Tesla Model S.
Toyota describes the steering yoke as having a “wing-shape,” and it uses a steer-by-wire system, which means there is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the tyres. The yoke only needs to be turned up to 150 degrees from side to side, and the driver never needs to take their hands off the wheel. This eliminates the need to switch grips while steering, according to the company, making U-turns and other manoeuvres easier.
Toyota first unveiled the BZ4X at the Shanghai Auto Show earlier this year, along with an electric vehicle strategy that the company claims will result in the release of 15 new battery-electric vehicles by 2025.
The BZ4X will be built on a versatile platform developed in collaboration with fellow Japanese automaker Subaru. (At the moment, Toyota owns a small stake in Subaru.) The e-TNGA platform will enable several features, such as steer-by-wire, all-wheel drive, improved visibility, and regenerative braking, which is common in electric vehicles. Toyota stated that the BZ4X would be available globally by the middle of 2022. Subaru is reportedly developing its own electric vehicles based on the e-TNGA platform.
For those who do not want to go full yoke, the BZ4X will also come with a standard steering wheel and system. (The Model S yoke has sparked debate, with Consumer Reports claiming that it can make driving awkward.)
The interior of the car features a unique instrument cluster, with the screen set back from the steering wheel to improve driver visibility, according to Toyota. The central infotainment screen appears to float above the dash rather than being embedded within it. There are also a number of physical buttons in the centre console and on the steering wheel, indicating that Toyota is not fully embracing the digital user experience as companies such as Tesla have.
Toyota’s designers were inspired by the hammerhead shark when designing the exterior of the BZ4X. Nonetheless, it retains a conventional shape and appears to be the same size as a Toyota RAV4.
It will be available with two powertrains: a 201-horsepower front-wheel-drive and a 215-horsepower all-wheel-drive with ranges of 310 and 286 miles per charge, respectively. (Those figures are based on the global WLTC rating, which tends to be higher than the EPA’s.) In terms of energy capacity, the vehicle has a 71.4kWh battery pack, which is comparable to the Volkswagen ID 4 and the Nissan Ariya.
Other unusual options include a solar roof that, according to Toyota, can generate electricity “equivalent to 1,800 km of driving distance per year.” It also supports bidirectional charging for vehicle-to-home capacity, similar to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ford F-150 Lightning.
The electric SUV is expected to arrive in Japan first, in mid-2022, though Toyota has not stated whether it will be available in the United States. More information on pricing and production will be released in the coming months.
Toyota recently announced a $13.6 billion investment in battery technology over the next decade, including a $9 billion investment in production, as part of its efforts to electrify its vehicle lineup. Although Toyota was a pioneer in gas-electric hybrid vehicles with the Prius, the company reportedly saw hybrids as a stopgap measure until hydrogen fuel cells became competitive. Now, the company is catching up with Nissan and has reportedly lobbied to slow the transition to electric vehicles in the United States.