Toyota has finally released details about its new battery electric vehicle (BEV), the bZ4X. Recent news from Toyota made it appear that the automaker was not ready to go all-in on BEVs yet, so this announcement comes as a bit of a surprise. Despite the bZ4X being teased months ago, we finally know more about Toyota’s first foray into a dedicated BEV platform.
The Toyota bZ4X is the first in a new series of electric vehicles
The reveal of the Toyota bZ4X is less about this specific vehicle and more about the automaker announcing the new “bZ” BEV platform that this car is built upon. Toyota is looking to adapt the bZ platform to several different vehicle segments, which should streamline BEV production and, in theory, keep costs down.
The “bZ” stands for “beyond zero.” From what we can tell, “beyond zero” is the mantra for this new platform to provide more than just a zero-emission vehicle. Based on the bZ platform’s design, materials used, and production process, Toyota claims it is a step toward a “sustainable society.” That is a lofty claim for an SUV, but BEVs are believed to be better for the environment than combustion engines, so we supposed technically, Toyota has a point.
In a video overview discussing the bZ platform, Toyota teases three other vehicles that will utilize it in addition to the bZ4X. Two of them appear to be mid-sized sedans, while the third looks to be an SUV. We speculate not much time will pass before we learn more about the other bZ platform cars.
The bZ4X appears to borrow the yoke steering wheel from the Tesla Model S Plaid
One of the most controversial features of the new Tesla Model S Plaid is the yoke steering wheel. Tesla says they chose a yoke-style wheel for maximum visibility, but critics believe the wheel is impractical in real-world driving conditions. Despite that criticism, the Toyota bZ4X utilizes a similar wheel. Though, Toyota’s approach may make it more usable for daily driving.
The bZ4X uses a steer-by-wire system. In other words, there is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the steering rack. Steering input is digital similar to the way a steering wheel works when playing a racing game. Since inputs are digital, the steering ratios can be adjusted by software on the fly depending on driving conditions. In theory, that can make a yolk steering wheel more comfortable to use.
Toyota also claims that the steer-by-wire system blocks “unessasary vibrations” from tires and only transmits “nessasary vibrations” from the road surface.
What is the range of the Toyota bZ4X?
The Toyota bZ4X range is 310 miles (500 km) in the FWD version and 285 miles (460 km) in the AWD version. According to the official specifications, the AWD version of the bZ4X is only 85lbs heavier than the FWD version, but the AWD model has two 80 kW electric motors. In contrast, the FWD model only has one 150 kW motor.
The battery is designed to be exceptionally recyclable
It is true that EVs are cleaner in operation than an internal combustion vehicle but producing the batteries that power EVs is not necessarily the cleanest process. Mining the materials needed for EV batteries such as cobalt and lithium has questionable environmental impact. Additionally, there are potential human rights issues surrounding mining operations. Rivian is currently facing questions about such issues from potential investors just ahead of its IPO.
That being said, until the battery-producing process gets better, it is best to keep a battery in operation for as long as possible. The Toyota bZ4X battery is meant to have an exceptionally long life span with high recyclability. The car is also designed to work as a power source in emergencies, similar to how the Ford F-150 Lightning can power a house for a limited time during a blackout.
How much will the Toyota bZ4X cost?
Currently, the Toyota bZ4X price is unknown, but we speculate that the MSRP will be somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 depending on the choice of drivetrain (FWD or AWD). We would also guess that Toyota would want to keep the bZ4X competitively priced against other BEVs in the segment, such as the Tesla Model Y.
What is the bZ4X release date?
The Toyota bZ4X is currently set to release in “mid-2022.” Toyota says that it will release seven bZ platform vehicles by the end of 2025. That is a very short window so expect more bZ vehicle reveals to come soon.