Toyota bZ4X for the U.S. misses out on steering ‘joystick’ [Update]

Toyota’s bZ4X EV made its North American debut in Plano, Texas, in June 2021. Since then, several new details have come to light. The U.S. spec version of the car is set for a 2022 release, and it will have some changes compared to the reveal vehicle.

Apparently, visual changes on the U.S.-spec Toyota bZ4X concept don’t stop at orange marker lights. The interior of the American model has a conventional, round steering wheel. In April, the global version (pictured below the U.S.-spec model) showcased in China, had a futuristic, yoke-style design. The U.S.-spec 2021 Tesla Model S has similar controls, and so, it’s not as if the NHTSA bars Toyota from using the aircraft-inspired design. Perhaps, the Japanese automaker is playing it safe, sensing backlash from customers. Notice that the wiper and turn indicator stalks also have a simpler, rounded design in the U.S.-spec version.

Here are the highlights of the Toyota electric car that is arriving on the U.S. market in 2022:

  • The size and proportions of the Toyota bZ4X EV concept are reminiscent of the Toyota RAV4. However, the bZ4X looks sharper and more aerodynamic. It was designed from the outset as an EV, and it’s not a conversion of the RAV4. The lower height and coupe-styled tail section give it a sporting character.
  • Thanks to a dedicated EV platform, the bZ4X has short overhangs and a long wheelbase. The interior space is comparable to that of a D-segment sedan (Toyota Camry).
  • The bZ4X has a steer-by-wire system, which should offer smooth and nippy maneuvers.
  • The low position of the dashboard and the location of the fully digital instrument cluster enhances the sense of space inside the cabin while also improving road visibility.
  • The bZ4X has a new all-wheel drive system co-developed with Subaru.
  • A technical highlight Toyota points out is the usage of a solar recharging system, which charges the battery pack when the vehicle is stationary. The gains should be minimal.
  • Manufacturing will take place in Japan and China, with sales beginning by the middle of 2022.

Toyota to launch 6 more bZ EVs after the bZ4X

Toyota has half a dozen BZ EVs in the pipeline by 2025, following the Toyota BZ4X.

bZ at Toyota is the condensed form of ‘Beyond Zero’ branding dedicated to its electric car series. Toyota may apply the alphanumeric branding with an ‘X’ for crossovers, while the hatch, sedan, or MPV names could end with the number connoting their place in the ladder. The first vehicle has the name Toyota BZ4X, and at least one larger and two smaller electric crossovers are expected to follow mid-decade.

Video Source: YouTube/Toyota Motor Corporation

Toyota filed more than ten trademark applications at EUIPO last year, and it would use some of them in the upcoming bZ models:

  • Toyota BZ
  • Toyota BZ Series
  • Toyota BZ1
  • Toyota BZ1X
  • Toyota BZ2
  • Toyota BZ2X
  • Toyota BZ3
  • Toyota BZ3X
  • Toyota BZ4
  • Toyota BZ4X
  • Toyota BZ4X Concept
  • Toyota BZ5
  • Toyota BZ5X
Toyota BZ EV logo
The Toyota BZ EV range will include seven models by 2025, the company has announced. Image Source: EUIPO/Toyota

In June 2019, Toyota announced its electrification plan, revealing two strategies: one aimed at the ultra-compact (twin-seater) EV market and the second aimed at global deployment. The ultra-compact EVs are intended primarily for the Japanese market. However, with the latter, we will see mass-market Toyota electric cars in the United States, Europe, and China, which the company classifies as high-demand markets.

Toyota global electric vehicles range
Toyota electric cars based on the e-TNGA can have front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive variants with varying battery sizes and motor specifications. Image: Toyota

A total of seven Toyota EVs are planned for global deployment by 2025, and a few of them are of the SUV/crossover bodystyle. The plan includes a large SUV, a medium crossover, and a medium SUV. Toyota has jointly developed the medium SUV, called the bZ4X, with Subaru. The Subaru electric car from this combine will be launched as the Solterra by mid-2022.

All models would be based on the e-TNGA, given their appeal and the necessary compliance to American and European standards. The medium crossover and SUV would be 5-seat Toyota electric cars, and the large SUV could be a 7-seat model.

e-TNGA at the core of the Toyota bZ line

Last year, Toyota announced a brand-new dedicated EV platform called e-TNGA. This new platform has a basic architecture principle where some main elements are fixed while others can be varied, such as the wheelbase, length, width, and height. Besides, Toyota engineers can vary the layout (AWD, FWD, or RWD) and the motor and battery capacities to suit user demands. Many different types of cars can be planned on a single platform.

Toyota has spoken about its modular e-TNGA platform and how it can be varied to accommodate different body styles and shapes. In the e-TNGA, “the position of the front and rear electric motors, the layout under the hood, the driver position relative to the front wheels, the width of the battery are fixed, while the wheelbase, number of batteries installed, overhangs, and other elements can be changed,” Toyota said.

The e-TNGA platform can take battery capacities ranging from 50 kWh to 100 kWh with range possibilities from 300 km to 600 km, with modular options for front-, rear, or all-wheel drive. Each axle can handle an electric motor with outputs from 80 kW to 150 kW, which means the most powerful Toyota electric car on the e-TNGA would have 300 kW maximum power.

250-300 mile range

The bZ4X could deliver a range of 250-300 miles (EPA est.) in the most range-focused configuration. Toyota puts a lot of effort into making sure that the bZ4X is durable. It wants to make sure that the battery pack of the bZ4X will deliver up to 90% of its full range even after ten years of use. Masahiko Maeda, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, has said that this is one of the highest endurance performance targets in the world.

Preventing the formation of degraded materials on anode surfaces is a key to extending battery life. Toyota is taking measures in various aspects such as pack structure, material selection, and control system to prevent the development of these degraded materials. Keiji Kaita, the President of Toyota’s CN Advanced Engineering Development Center, has said that the battery cost will reduce by 40% compared to the C-HR/Izoa/UX EV when it launches the bZ4X. So, cheaper battery replacements could be another advantage of the bZ4X.

Toyota bZ likely to be autonomous driving-capable

The Toyota bZ EV models should feature several new driving assistant systems, some of which may allow autonomous driving. Toyota has chosen ZF and Mobileye, an Intel company, to develop advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) for its future models.

ZF and Mobileye will work together to produce advanced camera technology integrated with the latter’s radar technology for use in the ADAS of future Toyota models. Mobileye’s EyeQ4 SoC and ZF’s Gen 21 mid-range radar technology together will be used to interpret the surrounding environment to prevent and mitigate collisions.

Gen 21 is a 77 GHz front radar that enables L2/L2 + autonomous driving functions. It has been designed to meet 2022+ Euro NCAP 5-star safety ratings. It can be used at low speeds to assist in pedestrian detection to AEB and other support systems and at high speeds for systems like adaptive cruise control.

C-HR & UX300e mark the launch of mass-market Toyota BEVs

Currently, Toyota retails the C-HR EV in China (GAC Toyota), while the other JV (FAW Toyota) sells the same EV as the Toyota Izoa. Group brand Lexus sells the UX300e based on the GA-C platform (a modification of the TNGA), and these conversions arrived in 2020. Lexus has announced the UX300e for markets such as Japan, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, whereas the C-HR Electric is unlikely to cross the Chinese border.

Featured Image Source: Toyota