Toyota readies first electric SUV

Japanese carmaker is accelerating its push into electric vehicles with the launch of BZ 4X

 “Beyond Zero” bZ4X electric sport utility vehicle (SUV) at the Auto Shanghai 2021 show in Shanghai, China, on Monday, April 19, 2021.  Photograph: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

“Beyond Zero” bZ4X electric sport utility vehicle (SUV) at the Auto Shanghai 2021 show in Shanghai, China, on Monday, April 19, 2021. Photograph: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

 

Toyota is speeding up its previously sluggish push into electric vehicles with the release of its first SUV built on a new EV platform developed by the Japanese automaker to build out its electric fleet over the coming years.

The world’s largest carmaker previewed its “Beyond Zero” BZ 4X, an electric SUV sitting on its new “e-TNGA” platform at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show on Monday. The vehicle is a compact SUV that resembles Toyota’s popular Rav-4, but is built on a entirely new platform.

The move from Toyota comes as major automakers pivot toward electrification, with countries from Japan to the UK and automakers from General Motors to Volkswagen pledging to phase out gasoline-only vehicles over the coming decades.

Hybrid heavyweight Toyota has taken a more cautious approach to EVs but that is starting to change with the the latest debut. By comparison, Volkswagen, Toyota’s main global rival, is betting $29 billion on new battery technology to accelerate its shift to EVs.

The Japanese automaker says the e-TNGA platform will speed up deployment of new EVs, reducing development time and allowing different models to be designed in parallel. The platform can be fitted to a broad range of vehicle sizes, and while certain key elements remain fixed, the battery and electric motor “ the most expensive parts of an EV” can be adjusted based on the model.

The ability to produce cars of different prices and sizes based on its modular platform will give Toyota the ability to reach a wider swathe of consumers - younger consumers in China demanding smaller and cheaper models such as the $4,230 SAIC Motor Corp.-General Motors Hongguang Mini EV.

The BZ 4X, manufactured at Toyota’s ZEV factory in Japan, will be followed by additional models based on the new EV platform that will be released in the coming years. In total, Toyota said it will introduce 15 vehicles based on the BZ by 2025. These include a compact car co-developed with Suzuki Motor Corp., a large SUV, a mid-size crossover, a minivan and a sedan.

The e-TNGA platform is a similar approach to that Volkswagen is taking with the MEB car platform, used by the German automaker and its subsidiaries for electric car development.

The BZ 4X’s preview is the next step in Toyota’s rollout of its forthcoming battery-electric portfolio, Toyota ZEV factory deputy chief officer Koji Toyoshima, said in December. - Bloomberg