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

The Subaru Solterra, which media referred to as the Subaru Evoltis previously, will be the first Subaru electric car, not just in the U.S., but in the global market. The Solterra, developed in association with Toyota, is not an electrified Subaru Forester or a ‘conversion’ of an existing Subaru. 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.

Subaru first released a teaser of the Solterra showing its outline. Based on that image, TopElectricSUV.com worked on a rendering to offer readers a realistic preview of the electric SUV’s final design (set as the article’s featured image). The company has released several more teasers since, strengthening our speculations about its similarity to the Toyota bZ4X.

Subaru Solterra front three quarters teaser
The Solterra looks just like the Toyota bZ4X, which is because they share a basic design and platform. Image Source: Subaru

In this story, we take a close look at what has been said or reported on the electric car.

Subaru Solterra Design & Features

Subaru Solterra front three quarters teaser
Except for the lights, the Subaru Solterra looks an awful lot similar to the Toyota bZ4X (concept). Image Source: Subaru

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 plans to launch a C-segment BEV first, and it will be an SUV top hat.

The Subaru Solterra looks closer to the Toyota bZ4X than originally thought. Our rendering and the teaser show the Subaru EV featuring an identical silhouette and a unique headlamp design in a very similar shape, suggesting that sheet-metal changes, if any, would be very limited.

One of the teasers confirms that the headlamp design would be nearly identical. The teaser below confirms that the sides would look the same and that, just like on the Toyota EV, the charging port would be located on the left front fender. While the shape of the tail section would be the same for the two cars, the bumper and combination lamps could look slightly different. Moreover, the Subaru wouldn’t have a continuous light strip connecting the tail lamps. This picture also shows a “Symmetrical AWD” badge right below the Subaru inscription.

The teaser above confirms that the interior design will be nearly identical to the U.S.-spec Toyota bZ4X. It has the same features as the Toyota model, such as a steer-by-wire system, a fully digital instrument cluster, and a large touchscreen infotainment system.

Specifications

Toyota Subaru BEV platform
The Subaru Solterra will ride on the e-Subaru Global platform co-developed with Toyota. It will go on sale in the U.S. in mid-2022. 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. It suggests that the Subaru Solterra may not feature a front trunk or a ‘frunk,’ but it does hint at a flat floor that should allow a lounge-like interior.

Back in 2010, Toyota packed a 41.8 kWh Lithium-ion battery in the third-gen RAV4. Battery technology has progressed a lot in the last decade, with huge advancements made in energy density and cost. Moreover, the bZ4X, the new-era RAV4-class EV, sits on a platform developed especially for EVs. It is safe to assume that Toyota can use a battery with a much higher energy content in the bZ4X. Japanese website bestcarweb.jp speculates that a 60 kWh unit that can deliver a range of 400-450 km in the local WLTC mode. Subaru will most likely offer the same battery in the Solterra.

The Subaru Solterra should get the same batteries and motors as the Toyota bZ4X. Toyota has indicated that it is paying a lot of attention to the durability aspect of the bZ4X’s batteries, and so, Subaru’s Solterra should also benefit from these efforts. Toyota is working on ensuring that the bZ4X is able to deliver 90% of the original range even after ten years of usage. This is one of the world’s highest endurance performance targets, Masahiko Maeda, Chief Technology Officer, Toyota, said. Both new electric SUVs’ range (EPA est.) in the U.S. could lie somewhere between 250 and 300 miles.

Similar to the Forester

Subaru has said that the mid-size electric SUV will be similar in size to the Subaru Forester. The electric SUV will be based on the e-Subaru Global platform co-developed with Toyota and called e-TNGA by the partner company. Speaking to autonews.com in 2019, Kazuhiro Abe, Senior Vice President – Product Planning, Subaru, had said that the Subaru EV would have dimensions similar to the Forester or the Toyota RAV4. Subaru says in the Solterra announcement that it has co-developed not just the platform but the entire vehicle with Toyota.

For reference, the Subaru Forester measures 182.1 inches in length, 71.5 inches in width, and 67.5 inches (w/o roof rails)/68.1 inches (w/ roof rails) in height. The Toyota RAV4 is 180.9 inches long, 73.0 inches wide, and 67.0 inches tall. Based on a dedicated EV platform, the Subaru Solterra should have a longer wheelbase than that of the Subaru Forester (105.1 inches).

Video Source: youtube.com/LOVECARS!TV!

Abe had revealed that the Subaru Electric Car might come in a single-motor front-wheel-drive variant and a dual-motor all-wheel-drive variant appealing to a wider band of customers and needs. Toyota has confirmed that it will be possible to offer e-TNGA models in the front-, rear- or four-wheel drive layout.

Partnership justified

Toyota and Subaru have agreed to develop a C-segment BEV SUV for sale with their own badges. Subaru is borrowing Toyota’s technical resources for the Solterra instead of indigenously developing it because it wants 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 upcoming electric SUV is a compliance car to adhere to California’s emission regulation, he suggests that the project is 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 with regards to electrification, Subaru will leverage 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

All-wheel drive specialist

Subaru Solterra EV roof teaser
The Subaru Solterra EV will feature Symmetrical AWD as standard. Image Source: Subaru

With Subaru in the driver seat for the development of the all-wheel drive technology, expect the Solterra to be capable of tackling snow, mud, and gravel with ease. While it won’t be an extreme, rock-crawler, don’t take it for a high-riding wagon, for it’s a Subaru. It could feature 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. What Subaru has confirmed is that Symmetrical AWD and “plenty of ground clearance” will be standard.

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 Solterra production & unveil

In December 2020, Subaru said that it would unveil its mid-size electric SUV that sits on the platform shared with Toyota in the first half of 2021, which has been delayed. Seeing the latest batch of revealing teasers, we expect Subaru to show the car later this year, and with the Tokyo Motor Show (was to be held in Oct 2021) canceled, it could unveil the model at a private event.

The Toyota bZ4X will be assigned to a ‘Toyota ZEV Factory’ in Japan and another factory in China. The Subaru mid-size electric SUV 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 USA launch

The Subaru Solterra will go on sale in the first markets by the middle of 2022. The first Subaru electric car has received the green signal for launch in the USA, Japan, Canada, China, and European countries. In the USA, expect prices to start at around $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 its all-new SUV 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, so it may launch the Solterra in the U.S. market first. 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 its recent announcement.

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 in Australia & New Zealand

The sister model Toyota bZ4X has received the green signal for launch in the Trans-Tasman markets, but 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.

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 on the global launch timeline when the Solterra premieres.

Subaru Electric Car FAQs

When is the Subaru Electric Car release date?

Subaru has announced that the Solterra is 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 SUV compete with?

The Subaru electric car will challenge the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Toyota BZ4X, VW ID.4 & Nissan Ariya.

Featured Image Source: Subaru