Medium Power EV – TechCrunch

Toyota is not The first car brand that comes to mind when it comes to battery electric vehicles.

Toyota may be the world’s largest automaker – it is said to sell more than 9.5 million cars globally and steal the crown from the Volkswagen Group – but the company has been notably absent from the battery electric vehicle (BEV) space.

That is, until the appearance of the Toyota bZ4X 2023.

Toyota offered 30 different hybrid, battery, electric and alternative engine concepts in everything from a pickup to a sports car and promised to deliver them all by 2030. The company has committed and announced a massive $17.6 billion investment in battery technology. It will build a battery plant in North Carolina.

For now, the Toyota PZ4X 2023 is the sole representative of the company’s electric plans — a crossover with an oddly named name that raises some questions about what the company really thinks is the future of battery electric vehicles and how committed they are to everything. .

TechCrunch, along with other media, had the chance to get the first drive of the Toyota bZ4X. This is what we found.

Nuts and Volts

2023 Toyota bZ4X XLE

2023 Toyota bZ4X XLE. Image credits: Toyota

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X is the fraternal twin of the Subaru Solterra. Both cars were born from a joint development project between the two companies. Toyota designed the battery, body and cabin architecture, while Subaru handled all-wheel drive.

The big difference between the two? For potential customers, it will be the cost. Subaru customers will still be eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit, while Toyota has only a handful of eligible buyers left to use it after most of the company’s incentives went to the popular Toyota Prius. Moreover, the two cars are basically the same, minus the name on the badge.

Toyota says pricing for the 2023 Toyota bZ4X starts at $42,000 for the XLE and $46,700 for the Limited models, plus an additional $2,000 each if you want all-wheel drive, plus a $1,215 delivery fee. All you’re looking for is a price just $5 shy of $50,000 on the all-wheel drive version before adding any packages that include an upgraded stereo, a split rear spoiler, or better two-tone exterior colors. That’s a lot of money for crossover buyers, and after spending three short hours touring Encinitas in a pair of Toyota bZ4X crossovers, in front wheel and all-wheel drive configuration, there’s really no compelling reason to shell out that much money for the carry-on version. Toyota badge. I’ll have a second chance to spend an entire week on bZ4X next month to see if spending more time in it might change my mind.

The front-wheel-drive XLE model generates 201 horsepower and 196 pound-feet of torque and, according to Toyota, will go from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. That’s on par with most gasoline-powered crossovers on the road today. It’s neither impressive nor disappointing – but solidly average. Toyota says the bZ4X XLE with front-wheel drive will get an estimated 252 miles of EPA, the most of either variant. Again, solidly average rating.

When I hopped into the car in the morning, it started with an impressive range of 294 miles on the odometer. After an hour and a half of choppy traffic and a brisk walk down the highway to test the Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), I returned to the hotel with an estimated 200 miles of range left, which is more than enough given the weather, traffic conditions and the way I drove my car.

When Toyota launched the bZ4X at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year, the company said it would reach 300 miles of range in the front-wheel-drive model.

With the bZ4X coming to market, these EPA estimates put it just shy of that goal, yet it’s still within the long-range estimate (252 miles of range on the front-wheel drive XLE version and 222 miles of the all-wheel drive Limited). discs.)

This is unheard of in automotive circles because the vehicle range testing process varies from country to country, and many manufacturers, such as Toyota, base estimates on testing processes in their home country, in this case, Japan.

It’s important to note, however, that the range’s EPA is lower than some of the other electric vehicles in the competitive group, such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Tesla Model Y and Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Toyota spokespeople at the event said both the front wheel and all-wheel drive versions of the bZ4X will charge from “low to 80% within an hour” on DC fast charging.

More specifically, the company says that the all-wheel drive version of the 2023 bZ4X will add 90 miles of range in 30 minutes. The front-wheel drive version will add 180 miles in 30 minutes, according to Toyota. This stacks up against competitors like the Chevy Bolt, which can add up to 100 miles in about 30 minutes of charging on a DC fast charger.

The spec sheet provided by Toyota shows that the all-wheel drive bZ4X version is limited to a maximum of 100 kW of charging input while the front-wheel drive version is limited to 150 kW. That’s because, according to Toyota, the two batteries are made by different suppliers: the front-wheel drive version is made by PPES and the all-wheel drive version is made by CATL. This means that the all-wheel drive version will charge slightly slower than the front-wheel drive version at maximum charge. The bZX4 comes with a standard Level 1 charging cable. Again, this is all pretty average.

We’ll have to wait and see if Toyota customers will be satisfied with the bZ4X’s battery options and range.

Who is the Toyota bZ4X?

Toyota says these battery design and architecture decisions were made based on the preferences of its existing customer base. As Lisa Materazzo, Vice President of Group Marketing for Toyota Motor North America stated during her presentation at the event, “Simply put, this vehicle is well positioned to succeed because it delivers what customers expect in a BEV.” Later on in the show, she continued, “We believe the bZ4X will be a hit because it is specifically designed for our customers.” This raises some questions: Who is going to allocate $50,000 for this Toyota rather?

While the bZ4X isn’t Toyota’s first production, all-electric crossover (they made an all-electric RAV4 from 1997 to 2003 to comply with California’s zero-emissions states), it’s the first vehicle Toyota plans to sell through its “normal distribution and sales process.” Ordinary,” according to Materazzo. According to Toyota, the bZ4X will be available for purchase in ZEV states this month, followed by a rollout of 50 states this fall.

No matter what Elon Musk promises (and doesn’t deliver), it’s not likely that you can buy an EV for less than $40,000. The average deal price for a new vehicle equipped with an ICE is currently around $47,000 as of March 2022, according to AutoTrader, thanks to a variety of factors including supply chain issues and chip shortages.

While it may seem that the bZ4X’s target demographic will be buyers of the RAV4 and RAV4 Prime, the $50,000-plus price tag for all-electric devices may keep many of these customers away. Given that the average household income for a RAV4 household is approximately $86,000 per year, RAV4 buyers are unlikely to make the transition to an all-electric crossover.

So maybe the RAV4 buyer wasn’t the target buyer. What about Prius Prime customers? Prius and Prius Prime owners average incomes of just under $100,000 a year, which makes buying a 2023 bZ4X an achievable thing. But will Prius owners who love their quirky, fuel-efficient hybrids decide to give up their ways and hop in an all-electric crossover? Probably not, although Toyota representatives said during the presentation that their target customer is a family with an income of more than $100,000. So who is this car really for?

2023 Toyota bZ4X XLE EV

Image credits: Toyota

Then there’s the home charging installation (which costs between $600 and $2,000) that Toyota said will allow 2023 bZ4X buyers to make their vehicle payments. This is convenient (even if it’s not the best financial decision a customer can make) considering that one of the best places to charge your electric vehicle is at home. But, it is important to note that other automakers such as Chevrolet offer to cover the costs of installing a Level 2 charger in the home by purchasing or renting a new Bolt.

Toyota says that in its first year it is targeting about 7,000 expected sales of the bZ4X. For context, Toyota sold over 300,000 vehicles in 2021 alone. Such a small number of BEVs wouldn’t affect the environmental impact of those 300,000 Camrys. The company expects about 35% of bZ4X sales to be XLE models and 65% limited, with a 60/40 split between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models. Even if Toyota is marketing itself as moving into the electric vehicle space, it is clearly doing so on very limited volumes and with very limited incentives for both existing and potential Toyota buyers.

Toyota slowly rolls over to electric cars

Toyota is currently the world’s largest automaker and sells everything from ICE-powered cars to electric cars, but its all-electric strategy has been slow to take shape, compared to other automakers like GM, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, Audi, and others. .

Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO, has been vocal in the past about his concerns about battery electric cars (while spreading false information using rhetoric used by oil companies). In December of 2020, during his year-end annual address at the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Toyoda criticized electric vehicles as “overrated” according to the Wall Street Journal, and said the transition from gasoline to electric vehicles could cause millions of jobs to be lost and cause a crash. Auto industry. At the time, his comments were directed specifically at the Japanese government, which was still considering banning the sale of gasoline cars by the mid-2030s, following similar bans in places like California, Quebec and Washington. Despite Toyoda’s comments, the ban in Japan later passed, although it left room for the continued sale of hybrid cars.

Recently, Toyota also threatened to pull out of UK manufacturing over net-zero plans for the country, according to the Times of London. At the heart of the problem are the UK’s green mandates, which Toyota wants to see “lightened”, so it won’t have to pay heavy fines if it fails to meet state requirements for the number of battery and hybrid car sales.

While the vociferous resistance to the transition to battery electric vehicles may seem an odd strategy for a company like Toyota, a closer look suggests that some of it is well-founded given the limited resources the world can produce to produce a sufficient battery-electric vehicle.

At the same time, it’s important to note that much of the noise Toyota makes about battery electric vehicles is mostly marketing.

The company continues to market its “Beyond Zero” plans (where the bZ name comes from) and has also tried to get alternative fuel vehicles into the hands of consumers, such as the hydrogen-powered hybrid Toyota Mirai. Toyota knows and understands that there is not enough lithium in the world to replace all ICE engines in the hands of its customers. Battery electric vehicles, in their current form (powered by lithium-ion batteries), are not a viable replacement for all battery-powered vehicles on the road today, let alone those currently owned by Toyota customers.

Which is why the 2023 Toyota bZ4X makes sense. The vehicle provides a way for Toyota customers to get into an all-electric crossover built by a company known for reliability and safety, while Toyota continues to leave room for the development and adoption of alternative engines, which will not require the consumption of all the rare earth elements in the world and allow the company to face the increasing global pressure to become greener.

But is the Toyota bZ4X a compelling enough product to lure people into the company’s first battery-electric car? On the first drive: Not really. Between cost, architecture, and mixed messages about the future of alternative powertrains in Toyota’s top-of-the-line vehicles, Toyota appears to be doing more marketing work with the bZ4X than anything else. We’ll have to wait and see if consumers are willing to get into this marketing message with their hard-earned money.