The right overvoltage is missing
Toyota bZ4X – not yet at eye level
Toyota has long struggled with electric mobility. However, the largest automaker in the world is now putting its first battery-electric car into competition. The bZ4X is a crossover, but it’s still not on par with the competition. And this doesn’t just apply to current carrying capacity.
Of course, this Toyota stands out. Some of the countless cyclists in central Copenhagen crank their necks, following the softly buzzing SUV with their eyes. Although electric cars are no longer a rarity in the Danish metropolis, the first purely electric Toyota attracts attention only with its extravagant appearance. And from its designation, which is difficult to say.
“bZ4X” is decorated on the back, with the first letters being the most important. Because “bZ” stands for “beyond zero” and thus expresses the new Toyota motto. “Beyond zero” the Japanese want to tackle climate change with all the bZ models that will soon be added, and not just emissions. It is also about all the services related to the electric car.
Well, Toyota is now going “correctly” electric. Since 1997, the group has been considered a pioneer of what was then a new type of drive. The first Prius combined its internal combustion engine with the power of a small battery, mainly used to save fuel in city traffic. Since then, Toyota has sold more than 20 million so-called hybrids in many different models. All with the drawback that while blowing a considerably lower number of pollutants into the air, they are still classic combustion engines.
Toyota explained the long-delayed shift to a pure electric car with the insufficient number of charging stations and the associated difficulties and range anxiety of customers. As the network of charging stations is slowly becoming denser, the mega-corporation sees that its time is coming.
Exciting play of shadows
The first model, like the then Prius, had to be recognizable as a special Toyota simply by its looks. The 4.70 meter long crossover surprises with a strongly shaped side view, which, depending on the incidence of light, creates exciting shadow effects. At the same time, the surroundings, like other passing cars or street life, are represented as in the distorting mirror of a panopticon. The front is quite conservative, with a smooth hood and a narrow slot for LED headlights and radiator grille. Last but not least, a rear light buckle wraps around the back, giving the back a powerful and modern touch. All in all, the design is quite bold towards the rather conservative Toyota clientele and is based somewhat on the look of the noble Lexus brand.
Inside, a living room atmosphere prevails with shaped seats, upholstery made of renewable materials and smooth surfaces with a piano lacquer finish. The narrow central instrument with the speedometer and fuel consumption gauge has been pushed up to the windshield and mounted so high that Toyota believes it can do without a head-up display. Solidity also includes the 12.3-inch monitor in the top models (otherwise only 8-inch), under which real pushbutton switches can still be operated. One of which for the management of all-wheel drive reserved for the flagship bZ4X. The electronics can be prepared for driving through water, over snowy or muddy terrain, even for the ability to crawl over smaller obstacles or rather steep climbs and descents on slopes. “An SUV with off-road quality,” says lead developer Ido Daisuke and reassures: “Don’t worry, the battery is waterproof.”
Front-wheel drive 12,500 euros less
The fully equipped bZ4X with all-wheel drive costs almost 60,000 euros, but shines with two electric motors, each with 109 hp, which drive the front and rear axles. Depending on the current driving situation, the electronics distribute the traction and torque. As with comparatively powerful e-cars, the Toyota impresses with its sovereign and naturally jerk-free acceleration both from standstill and during intermediate sprints. The steering is currently still conventional, the so-called “steer by wire” should arrive from next year. The on-board electronics send the steering commands, so much so that the classic mechanics are obsolete. The computer always selects the ideal angle. And this even with 180 degree bends. The Unspeakable already pampers its occupants with the level of comfort and space for the rear benches that befits its status.
If desired, the driver can be supported with almost all known assistance systems. For the entry-level model they are combined in two packages for just under 8000 euros. The front-wheel drive (starting at € 47,490) only has a 204hp engine at the front, but offers a distinct autonomy advantage. With up to 510 kilometers per battery charge, it runs 100 kilometers more than the heavier all-wheel drive Toyota and also costs a whopping 12,500 euros less. So it’s no surprise that Toyota estimates that a whopping 75 percent of future buyers will opt for the front-wheel drive bZ4X in favor of autonomy and their own finances.
Still far from the competition
Toyota wants to fix a weakness in both models by the end of the year. Currently, the bZ4X can only be charged with 6.6 kWh on wall boxes, which is incomprehensible for a new car, so it has to be plugged in for hours at home. With the update the usual 11 kWh should then be possible. Along the way, you can dock at a 150 kWh fast charging station, which refills the battery to 80 percent in 30 minutes.
Clearing another gap compared to established competition will take even longer. The navigation system and on-board electronics currently do not work together when it comes to planning charging stops or managing battery temperature over kilometers before stopping at the charging station. However, a heat pump that relieves the battery of tasks is already on board.
The bZ4X, whose “4” stands for vehicle category and the “X” for crossover, is just the beginning. To transform the Japanese from the electric slow train of recent years into an ICE, Toyota is preparing other models on the new platform of the newcomer, initially probably a smaller and more compact SUV.
A total of 15 electric vehicles are expected to be in dealerships by 2025. At the same time, however, hydrogen propulsion, which is currently already powering the Mirai, is being further developed. By 2035, Toyota intends to offer only zero-emission models in Western Europe. And it probably will have to after the EU decision this week.