Subaru Electric Car ‘Solterra’ isn’t an electrified Forester [Update]

Update: ‘Subaru Solterra STI Concept’ section added.

The Subaru Solterra, which the media referred to as the Subaru Evoltis previously, debuted as the first Subaru electric car in November 2021. It was displayed at the 2021 LA Auto Show.

The Solterra, developed in association with Toyota, is not an electrified Subaru Forester or a ‘conversion’ of an existing Subaru product. Subaru has invested in the future by creating the Solterra, an electric car that is not a traditional engine swap. Unlike other auto manufacturers, Subaru has moved forward without waiting to see if its electric cars will catch on, with help from Toyota.

Video Source: YouTube/Subaru

In this story, we take a close look at what we know of the Solterra.

Design

Subaru says that it created the name “Solterra” by joining the word “Sol” and “Terra,” which mean the “Sun” and the “Earth,” respectively, in Latin. The C-segment is the most popular class worldwide and gives automakers a very high level of scale and decent margins. That explains why Volkswagen, Nissan, and Skoda focus on electric cars in the C-segment first – consider the VW ID.3, the VW ID.4, Nissan Leaf, Skoda Enyaq, and the Nissan Ariya. In line with the industry trend, Subaru has introduced a C-segment BEV first, in the SUV body style.

The Subaru Solterra is basically a differently designed Toyota bZ4X, and that is evident in its identical shape. Subaru appears to have made no sheet-metal changes and dealt with the easily swappable parts like the lights, grilles, bumpers, and wheels to keep the costs low.

At the front, the Solterra has bigger headlamps with C-shaped daytime running lights that are typical of Subarus. Designers have used a unique hexagonal faux radiator grille and a distinctive bumper also to set its electric SUV apart from its twin. Both parts carry a sharper design, making the front-end more aggressive compared to the Toyota. Another difference is the application of fog lamps on the Subaru model, a feature that aligns well with the brand’s adventure-themed vehicle line-up.

On the sides, the ‘EV’ badge instead of the bZ4X’s ‘ELECTRIC’ badge on the charging port cover and the model-specific alloy wheels are the differences on the Solterra. At the rear, the Solterra again tries to show that it’s very much a Subaru with uniquely designed tail lamps featuring C-shaped light guides. Unlike on the bZ4X, there’s no light band connecting the tail lamps. The interior design is the same, with the steering wheel’s closed bottom spoke being the only exception. There’s no yoke steering or wing-shaped steering option in this model.

Specifications

Subaru has not spelled out the complete specifications of the Solterra for the U.S. market, but it has released some preliminary figures. As for what has not been announced, we can guess based on what is offered in Japan.

Toyota Subaru BEV platform
The Subaru Solterra rides on the e-Subaru Global platform co-developed with Toyota. It will go on sale in the U.S. in the middle of the year. Image: Toyota

The above photograph shows the component structure of the platform with the drive system mounted under the hood and the battery pack embedded in the floor. The Subaru Solterra does not feature a front trunk or a ‘frunk,’ but it does have a nearly flat floor.

In Japan, the Subaru Solterra has a 71.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that operates at 355 volts. It will be available in 150 kW (201 hp) single-motor FWD and 160 kW (214 hp) dual-motor AWD configurations. Subaru is targeting a WLTC range of 530 km (329 miles) from the Solterra FWD and 460 km (286 miles) from the Solterra AWD.

Specification2023 Subaru Solterra (USA)
EV Range (estimated miles)220+
Motor output (hp)215
Motor Torque (lb.-ft.)248
Passenger volume (cu.ft)95.7
Cargo volume upper/lower cargo floor position (cu.ft.)27.7/ 30.3
Cargo volume from lower row (cu.ft.)30.3
Total passenger & cargo volume (cu.ft.)126
Rear cargo opening width (in.)41.3
Wheelbase (in.)112.2
Length (in.)184.6
Width (in.)73.2
Height (in.)65.0
Seating Capacity5 passengers
Ground clearance (in.)8.3
U.S. spec Subaru Solterra preliminary specifications.

In the U.S., Subaru will offer the Solterra in only an AWD configuration with two motors that generate 215 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The company doesn’t mention the battery capacity, but it could be the U.S.-spec bZ4X AWD’s 72.8 kWh lithium-ion pack. The company is targeting a range of more than 220 miles for the U.S.-spec Solterra.

In Japan, Solterra customers will be able to charge it with up to 6.6 kW with AC using the on-board charger or with up to 150 kW with DC at fast-charging stations. Subaru hasn’t disclosed the peak charging power for the U.S.-spec Solterra, but it has said that charging to 80% SoC with a DC fast-charger will take less than an hour. Final specifications for the U.S. should become available in the coming months.

Subaru Solterra wheel
The Subaru Solterra features conventionally designed alloy wheels in 18- and 20-inch size options. Image Source: Subaru

Partnership justified

In June 2019, Toyota and Subaru agreed to develop a C-segment BEV SUV for sale with their own badges. Subaru borrowed Toyota’s technical resources for the Solterra instead of indigenously developing it because it wanted to keep the investment and risk low. Tomomi Nakamura, Representative Director, President, and CEO, Subaru, had said this in an interview with autonews.com. Concurring that the new electric SUV is a compliance car to adhere to California’s emission regulation, he suggested that the project was driven as much by the law as by the market demand.

Having sold a wide range of hybrid EVs for years now and a few pure EVs recently, Toyota possesses expertise in electrification that Subaru lacks. While Toyota may have a higher contribution to the platform’s development due to its better know-how regarding electrification, Subaru has leveraged its strengths in areas like all-wheel drive and control.

There are still some uncertainties about how fast the market for electric vehicles will grow, how far the cost of batteries will come down, and so on. Under these circumstances, we believe there is an opportunity in efficiently using our relatively limited resources as an automobile manufacturer in model development by switching from in-house development to joint development.

Subaru reasoning its decision for a joint BEV development during the Q2 FY2020 analyst briefing Q&A session

Features

Key features of the Solterra are similar to those of the bZ4X, but it doesn’t get all of the Toyota model’s equipment. The Solterra is Subaru’s first vehicle to feature fully automatic parking, although Subaru hasn’t confirmed that feature for the U.S. model. Other key features of the brand’s first EV include a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto, digital key, heat pump-type AC, X-Mode AWD control system, and Grip Control. Like the bZ4X, the Solterra has a shift-by-wire system with a dial-type gear selector and will be available with a solar, but it won’t be available with a steer-by-wire system.

All-wheel drive specialist

Subaru Solterra side profile
The Solterra benefits from Subaru’s advancements in all-wheel drive and control and Toyota’s vehicle electrification technologies. Image Source: Subaru

With Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system, the Solterra should be capable of tackling snow, mud, and gravel with ease. While it’s not a rock-crawler, don’t take it for a high-riding wagon, for it’s a Subaru. It features the dual-function X-Mode system of ICE Subaru models that allows the driver to adapt the vehicle’s components for specific driving conditions like snow/dirt and deep snow/mud. There’s also a newly developed Grip Control, which consists of Hill Ascent and Descent Assist, to refine the SUV’s rough road performance.

There will be quick acceleration response, obviously. Not only that, our long-cultivated AWD capability will be further enhanced by precise, highly-responsive electric motors, which will lead to an increase in Subaru’s strengths such as stability, driving dynamics, and handling.

Tomomi Nakamura, President and CEO of Subaru (STEP 2.0 Mid-Term Management Vision Progress Briefing)

Subaru will offer the Solterra a number of active safety technologies. This is the company’s first model to feature a 360-degree surround-view camera (a Subaru-first) and Safe Exist Assist. EyeSight and Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert will also be available.

Subaru Solterra production

The bZ4X’s production will take place at the Toyota Motomachi Plant in Japan and another factory in China. The Solterra should also roll out of the same plants. The China-made units may have a battery system jointly developed with CATL, as is the case with the bZ4X.

Subaru Solterra U.S. launch

The Subaru Solterra will go on sale in the first markets, including the United States, in the middle of the year. The first Subaru electric car has received the green signal for launch in Japan, Canada, China, and European countries as well. In the USA, expect prices to start at around USD 40,000 at launch.

Subaru is concerned about the effect of the American state of California’s ban on new gasoline and diesel vehicles on its sales, as per a report from jp.reuters.com. “We cannot easily change the policy, so we will first proceed with our roadmap,” Nakamura said (translated) in October 2020. He added that the Subaru electric cars co-developed with Toyota would “do well.”

Subaru Solterra tail lamp
Subaru has said the Solterra offers ample rear-seat and cargo room. Image Source: Subaru

Subaru’s focus in the U.S. market

The Solterra could be a game-changer for Subaru, allowing it to revamp the brand image with higher quality and more advanced technologies not offered on existing models. Subaru has announced that it will focus on U.S. customers and prioritize improving quality, both of which should lead to the Solterra receiving special attention during development.

Subaru plans to offer vehicles with new hybrid and pure electric powertrain technologies in North America before other regions. The company will continue rolling out new vehicles designed for U.S. customers from the very outset. These models, possibly including the Solterra, will come with Advanced Driver Assist Systems for safety, connected car technology, and AI-enabled technologies, as per an official announcement in 2021.

On June 24, 2021, Subaru released its annual Corporate Impact Report for the U.S. It reiterated its commitment to creating a carbon-free society in the report and said that it is working to increase EVs and hybrid vehicles in its global sales to form at least 40% by 2030. In the coming years, it plans electrification across the line-up. By 2050, the company wants to reduce average CO2 emissions by at least 90%, compared to 2010. The Japanese automaker sold nearly 6,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the United States by the end of 2020.

Subaru is the first automaker with the honor of being J.D. Power’s Most Trusted Brand for seven consecutive years. In addition, in the 2021 Axios Harris Poll 100, a reputational study that ranked companies in the U.S. based on critical parameters like growth, products & services, vision, ethics, culture, and more, Subaru ranked no. 14.

Subaru Solterra Norway launch

Norway is not a hot market for Subarus, but it is likely to be among the first countries to get the Solterra. Norway is the world’s leading adopter of EVs, and launching new EVs in the land of the midnight sun is a top priority for automakers. It is probably the first country where Subaru has confirmed that customers will be able to place an order for their Solterra soon, as per the product page on the Subaru Norway website. Deliveries will begin in the middle of the year.

Subaru Solterra in Australia & New Zealand

While the Toyota bZ4X has received the green signal for launch in the Trans-Tasman markets, that’s not the case with the Solterra. In New Zealand, a launch is under consideration, as Subaru and the New Zealand subsidiary discuss the model’s availability. In May 2021, Wallis Dumper, Subaru New Zealand’s Managing Director, said that the NZ subsidiary is thrilled about the first Subaru EV announcement but “there is no timeline (for the NZ launch) to share.”

We are thrilled that Subaru has announced its first electric vehicle, however we are still in discussions with Subaru Corporation about availability for the New Zealand market. Future electric vehicle projects form part of ongoing dialogue between Subaru of New Zealand and the factory.

Wallis Dumper, Managing Director, Subaru (New Zealand)

In Australia, the local subsidiary is holding talks with the factory to understand if it can get enough allocation, suggests a report from goauto.com.au. More details should emerge in the coming months.

Subaru Solterra STI Concept

Subaru Solterra STI concept front three quarters
The Subaru Solterra STI Concept tries to stand out with a body kit and special wheels. Image Source: Subaru

At the 2022 Tokyo Auto Salon held from January 14 to 16, the Subaru booth hosted a surprise debut – the Subaru Solterra STI Concept. As the suffix indicates, this is a concept of the potential STI variant of the Subaru electric car. The Solterra STI Concept features a special light blue color, red underbody spoilers on all four sides, a body-colored vertical blade in the side air inlets, gloss black alloy wheels with red highlight, and a gloss black roof spoiler featuring the STI logo on the sides. Subaru hasn’t revealed the technical details or confirmed a Solterra STI launch yet.

Subaru Electric Car FAQs

What is the Subaru Electric Car release date?

Subaru has announced that the Solterra will go on sale in the U.S. in mid-2022.

What will be the Subaru Electric car price?

Subaru may price the Solterra from around $40,000 to compete with offerings from VW, Hyundai & Nissan.

Which electric SUVs will the Subaru Solterra compete with?

Featured Image Source: Subaru