A new Toyota RAV4 electric isn’t hitting showrooms in the foreseeable future, but a similar-sized Toyota EV with an all-new nameplate has arrived. Under threat from models such as the Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5, VW ID.4, the Nissan Ariya, and the Skoda Enyaq, Toyota has unveiled a pure electric alternative to the Toyota RAV4 – the Toyota bZ4X.
The bZ4X celebrated its world premiere as a near-production concept at the 2021 Shanghai Motor Show in April 2021. Toyota has given it some final touches and unveiled it in the production form. The company has co-developed it with Subaru, which plans to release an electric compact SUV next year in the United States, the Subaru Solterra. Parts of the vehicle’s platform, called e-TNGA, are jointly developed with Subaru. Toyota has relied on the partner company’s prowess in AWD technologies for this model.
Design & Interior
The Toyota bZ4X doesn’t have an outlandish design like the Nissan Ariya. Compared to the Toyota RAV4, though, with its concave and cleaner nose, slimmer and techy headlights, lower height, sleeker greenhouse, shorter overhangs, and much steeper C-pillars, it’s stylish and breaks new ground for Toyota design.
The interior has a few elements typically not associated with everyday Toyotas, like a fully digital instrument cluster and a steering yoke (which is switched for a regular unit for the U.S. market) like an airplane cockpit. At the same time, mainstream Toyota users would spot similarities to the RAV4, and the cabin feels like an evolutionary departure. In other words, for customers who like their vehicles to be conventional, the bZ4X won’t scare them away!
In addition to the wing-shaped steering or yoke steering, there are two more first-for-Toyota features inside the bZ4X. Toyota has used top-mounted meters, making it easier to view the information displayed in the instrument cluster. Europeans have experienced this kind of layout in Peugeots for years now. The second Toyota-first feature is a rotary or dial-type gear electronic gear selector.
While we are at interior features, another noteworthy mention is a digital key, which allows locking, unlocking, and starting the system from smartphones. Customers will be able to share the digital key remotely, say to other family members or friends. Moreover, the bZ4X should have a better voice-recognition system compared to most other Toyotas; users will be able to operate AC and wipers also using voice commands.
e-TNGA is a dedicated EV platform, and Toyota can build front-, rear- or four-wheel drive electric cars on it. Toyota can alter the length, width, height, and wheelbase as required, and the same goes for the motor and battery pack capacities. The same fixed layout for key components allows creating different powertrain combinations. A front motor allows FWD, while a rear motor supports RWD.
eAWD can be achieved by employing front and rear motors together. The company has confirmed that the bZ4X is followed by six more bZ electric vehicle models by 2025. One can expect a larger Toyota BZ5X or BZ6X with third-row seating to follow in the next few years.
Koji Toyoshima, Deputy Chief Officer, ZEV Factory (Japan), Toyota, has said that the e-TNGA platform’s flexibility and versatility enable designing and creating models that are not only able to run purely on electricity but also beautiful to look at and exciting to drive.
The Toyota bZ4X is a compact SUV with a mid-size SUV interior. It is 4,690 mm long, 1,860 mm wide, and 1,650 (incl. antenna), and yet it has a 2,850 mm-long wheelbase. As standard, it has a front-mounted motor that produces 150 kW. An option is available to add an 80 kW rear motor and increase the system power to 160 kW while simultaneously changing the drivetrain layout from FWD to AWD.
Toyota has equipped the bZ4X with a 71.4 kWh battery pack that offers a WLTC range of approximately 500 km (single-motor FWD)/460 km (dual-motor AWD). A solar roof is available to extend the range. Toyota says that it can generate electricity equivalent to 1,800 km of driving distance per year. 6.6 kW (AC)/150 kW (DC) is the supported maximum charging power. Fast-charging at 150 kW to 80% SoC takes half an hour.
Toyota RAV4, the ‘chosen one’ in the U.S.
The RAV4 has been the chosen one at Toyota for experimenting with EV technology since the 1990s, and before the Toyota Kenshiki Forum last year, it was thought that the company is set to finally release the first RAV4 EV for unrestricted sales across continents. The first Toyota RAV4 EV was launched in the first generation in 1996 and the next one, which was co-developed with Tesla, followed in 2012 more as a compliance car to meet the state of California’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate.
Like previous-generation Toyota RAV4 EVs, the Toyota bZ4X will be offered in the U.S. market, where the electric crossover race is hotting up in 2021 with the entry of Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Nissan with new technologies like skateboard platforms. It is safe to assume that, unlike the old models, the new model won’t be exclusive to California or be available only on lease. In Japan, the price of the bZ4X after deducting subsidy would be about ¥5 million or roughly $46,000, suggests a Creative311 report.
Toyota could target an EPA-est. range of 250-300 miles for the bZ4X. It may not be able to challenge the VW ID.4 on the pricing aspect. Volkswagen plans to cut the base price of the ID.4 in the U.S. (from $39,995) to around $35,000 when it starts manufacturing it at its Chattanooga plant in 2022. When launched in the U.S., the new Toyota electric SUV is estimated to cost over $40,000.
The Honda Prologue will touch down in early 2024, built on GM’s platform and the Ultium battery technology. Since April 2020, Honda and GM are collaborating on two SUVs, where GM supplies the underlying tech, and the design is from Honda. When it arrives, the upcoming Toyota electric SUV will face one more close rival that has the range, features, and tech to challenge gas-powered SUVs.
Toyota is also making progress on solid-state batteries, which are safer and recharge faster than liquid-type batteries, and expects to release the first EV using a solid-state battery before 2025.
On the Toyota RAV4 Prime
Until the Toyota bZ4X arrives in the U.S., the Toyota RAV4 Prime would remain the brand’s only (externally) chargeable SUV drivable solely with electric power. The first-ever Toyota RAV4 PHEV went on sale in the U.S. in the summer of last year. The plan was to start with 5,000 units in the first year and ramp it up to 20,000 units in the second year, with the bulk of the vehicles shipped to dealers in 12 ZEV states.
Allocation of the RAV4 Prime, which Toyota Industries Corporation manufactures at the Nagakusa Plant in Japan, has been limited because of supply chain issues.
It has also emerged that the RAV4 Prime was the quickest-selling new vehicle in March 2021, second only to the Corvette, as per iSeeCars.com’s analysis. It took an average of just 10.2 days to sell a RAV4 Prime in March, while transaction prices averaged $44,201 (compared to the $39,220 base price), as per the analysis. In April 2021, the RAV4 Prime finished 6th, spending 13.7 days parked at a dealer lot.
Perhaps with the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime, the allocation would be better, and more American states would retail the most powerful and fuel-efficient RAV4 in history. Year-to-date (January-September 2021) sales of the RAV4 Prime in the U.S. right now stand at 19,966 units.
Toyota APV sales on a rise
The share of Alternative Powered Vehicles (APVs) in Toyota’s U.S. sales is on the rise. APVs currently comprise hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles at Toyota. From next year, the range will include the battery-electric bZ4X.
In the first three quarters of 2021, Toyota sold 407,283 APVs in the U.S., marking a whopping 122.9%* year-over-year growth (January-September 2020: 182,718 units). The APV line-up currently includes three models that can travel long distances with zero tailpipe emission, namely Toyota Prius Prime (PHEV), Toyota RAV4 Prime (PHEV), and Toyota Mirai (FCEV).
*On a VOL basis
Featured Image Source: Toyota