Toyota is working on a full line-up of electrified vehicles ― hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) ― and thereby offer its customers diverse choices. But, various factors, such as the desired operating environment and cruising range for customers, and the status of development of recharging infrastructure, differ according to country and region.
The Japan-headquartered company has a presence in all the major countries. Based on 2020 unit sales, it is the largest automobile manufacturer in the world by volume, followed by the Volkswagen Group.
Considering the magnitude of the task and the need to move swiftly to maintain its leadership position in the market, Toyota has roped in partners who will bring in the requisite expertise and technology in various fields.
Toyota and EVs
In 1997, Toyota launched the world’s first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle, the Prius.
Between 2010-2019, the company claims, Toyota electrified vehicles have helped to reduce the average CO2 emission of new vehicles worldwide by approximately 22%.
As of 2020, Toyota’s line-up of electrified vehicles comprised 45 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), four plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), four battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and two fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) ― a total of 55 diverse models, ranging from passenger cars to commercial vehicles.
Going forward, Toyota will expand the total number of electrified models to around 70 by 2025.
Toyota will introduce 15 BEVs, including seven new Toyota bZ BEV models, by 2025 as part of a plan to offer a full line-up of electrified vehicles.
In its development of BEVs, Toyota has taken two distinct approaches based on the idea of utilising the advantages of BEVs, considering CO2 reductions from LCA.
The first seeks to realise ‘mobility for all’, with a focus on small-capacity, short-distance, ultra-compact BEVs with establishing new business models such as commercialisation of battery reuse and recycling. The Toyota C+pod, which was launched in December 2020, is one example.
In contrast, the new Toyota bZ series of BEVs takes on a ‘human-centered’ approach aimed at widespread use in China, the US and Europe, where there is significant demand for BEVs, and where there is a large supply of renewable electricity.
bZ stands for ‘beyond Zero’, and incorporates the desire to provide customers with value beyond ‘zero emissions’.
Toyota bZ series models will be built on new BEV-dedicated platforms with the following features:
- Practical cruising range that considers the operating environment
- Open and freestyle interior and uniquely designed exterior utilizing BEV packaging
Development of the Toyota bZ series is based on BEV-dedicated platforms that can be used with multiple variations in terms of size and design. Since it is difficult for Toyota to prepare a wide range of choices by itself, it is developing the series with partners who boast expertise in various fields, including BYD, Daihatsu, Subaru and Suzuki.
The Toyota bZ4X is an SUV BEV jointly developed with Subaru. It will be the first model in the bZ series. A concept version of the Toyota bZ4X was unveiled at Auto Shanghai.
This new vehicle adopts the e-TNGA BEV-dedicated platform that was jointly developed by the two companies; it takes advantage of the strength of Toyota, which boasts expertise in vehicle electrification, and Subaru, which possesses outstanding AWD technologies, and realises driving performance that is both comfortable and enjoyable.
Toyota plans to produce the Toyota bZ4X in Japan and China. Worldwide sales are expected to begin in the middle of 2022.
Highlights of the Toyota bZ4X:
- Using a BEV-specific platform, the bZ4X combines a long wheelbase with a short overhang; this results both in a distinctive design, and in an interior space comparable to a D-segment sedan.
- A uniquely shaped steering wheel eliminates the need to change grip when steering, and also contributes to a spacious interior; the vehicle adopts a steer-by-wire system that provides a smooth driving feel aligned with the driver’s intentions.
- The low position of the instrument panel and the location of the meters above the steering wheel serve not only to enhance the vehicle’s sense of space, but also improve visibility and contribute to safe and secure driving.
- The bZ4X adopts a new AWD system jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru; it combines safe and pleasing driving performance―made possible by the unique responsiveness of electrified vehicles―with an impressive off-road performance.
- In addition to the use of regenerative energy systems, the vehicle adopts a solar recharging system; this cleverly recharges the battery while stationary, and further enhances the unique environmental performance of a BEV. It also provides cruising range that ensures customers not to be inconvenienced in wintertime.