Toyota concept fleet jumpstarts BEV era and teases all-electric Lexus
Toyota has long received criticism for dragging its feet on electric vehicles and focusing so much attention on less-favored alternatives like hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. This week, the company looks to shed that reputation and e-turbocharge its feet in a big way, previewing an electrified future that will include EVs across the entire Lexus range and in Toyotas from mini urban commuters, to pickup trucks, to sports cars. A three-row fleet of concept cars stood as a testament to the company's EV commitment as leaders presented their Battery Strategies presentation at a media conference on Tuesday.
"An EV for you, an EV for me and an EV for everyone." If you were to take one thing away from Toyota's conference, Akio and Co. would probably want it to be that. Overloading the senses with not one, two or three concepts, but a full 16, wasn't merely Toyota's way of trying to make up for lost time but a means of showing that it plans to quickly get battery electric powertrains into a wide variety of vehicle types, both existing models and all-new series, ranging from the most basic, utilitarian Toyotas to the highest echelons of the Lexus badge. In all, it plans to roll out 30 all-electric passenger cars and commercial vehicle models by 2030.
Toyota's hand has essentially been forced – it would probably prefer "politely guided" – by rapid evolutions in consumer tastes and government regulations and initiatives. Governments worldwide are moving to cut pollution via cleaner vehicles, and consumers are beginning to push beyond merely entertaining the idea of electric cars to actively seek them out.
Toyota already has the bZ4X in the immediate pipeline and says it has begun preparing for production, which will begin by the middle of next year. Toyota will follow up with the cushier Lexus version, the RZ 450 E.
Lexus President Koji Sato promises that the RZ and Lexus-brand EVs in general, will go beyond mere clean, conscience-clearing zero-emissions commuting to deliver the type of quick, exhilarating ride that Lexus buyers seek out. Toyota's luxury arm will look to harness electric powertrain technology toward improving the all-around driving experience, quickening acceleration, sharpening handling and enhancing brake feel. Those efforts will culminate in a sports car that promises levels of performance not seen at Lexus since the inimitable LFA. The planned sports car will combine low-2-second acceleration with 435 miles (700 km) of cruising range, potentially achieved via solid-state batteries.
Electric technology will find even more diverse ends at Toyota, where it will underpin a full family of SUVs, an all-new FJ Cruiser-style utility vehicle, a Tacoma-like pickup, a pair of small, boxy urban vehicles, a two-door convertible, commercial vehicles and more. The pickup truck is particularly intriguing, as it appears to be a Tacoma-like midsize. The US market has seen the early beginnings of a full-size electric truck battle between the Ford F-150 Lightning, upcoming Chevy e-Silverado and Tesla Cybertruck, and Toyota's electric pickup could take on the Rivian R1T to kickstart a midsize theater of the greater e-pickup wars. We love what we've seen from Rivian, and we're eager to see how Toyota responds.
Toyota didn't shake out all the details (or any, really) on the myriad design studies revealed on Tuesday, but it promises that most of them are slated for debut within the next few years. The company aims to hit 3.5 million annual EV sales by 2030 and says that Lexus will have EVs in every one of its vehicle segments that same year. By 2035, plans call for BEVs to account for 100 percent of Lexus' global vehicle sales.
To put a point on how significant the 3.5-million sales figure is, Toyota stressed during a follow-up Q&A session that it's greater than the entire annual numbers for some major global automotive brands, including Daimler. In 2020, Daimler reported 2.84 million vehicles sold. At Toyota, the 3.5-million figure represents 40 percent of the 8.7 million global vehicle sales in calendar year 2020.
Toyota finally appears fully committed to all-electric vehicles, but that doesn't mean it plans to abandon other alternatives, such as hybrids and fuel cells. It intends to remain flexible and let the market decide which solution(s) it ultimately prefers, continuing to offer other lower- and zero-emissions options. Lately, it has been highlighting ongoing development work on a hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine, which could one day join BEVs, FCEVs and plug-in hybrids as another eco-friendly vehicle option.
There are virtually no details on the battalion of concept cars Toyota rolled out as decor for Tuesday's presentation, but you can get a closer look at each one in the gallery and start to develop an early impression of what Toyota's electric future has in store.