Toyota Hives Off First BEV into new Sub-Brand

Toyota has unveiled its first consumer-focused BEV while launching its zero emission sub-brand bZ.

The SUV bZ4X, due to reach European markets by the year’s end, spearheads its new ‘beyond Zero’ name plate to carry the torch of electrified mobility first ignited with the original Prius, the world’s first hybrid electric production car, in 1997. The world’s biggest automaker says the move strengthens its multi-technology approach to its consumer offering including hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs), BEVs, and fuel cell electric (FCEVs). Some would also say it prevents the parent brand being labelled a BEV manufacturer when it still trades so heavily on hybrid technology with the promise of increasing sales in the FCEV sector.

The front-wheel drive bZ4X is powered by a high-response 150kW electric motor. It produces 201bhp and 195ft-lbs of torque, claiming a 0-62mph acceleration in 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 100mph. The all-wheel drive model has maximum power of 214.5bhp with 247ft-lbs of torque and, while sharing the same top speed, acceleration to 62mph is reduced to 7.7 seconds. The system offers the option of “single pedal drive” with a boost in the braking energy regeneration that lets the driver accelerate and slow the vehicle using only the throttle pedal.

The automaker says it recognizes that vehicle driving range and long-term battery life expectancy are both concerns for consumers wanting to switch to a BEV. It says that, in line with development targets for the battery, only a 10% reduction in battery performance is expected in 10 years of driving, or 150 000 miles, whichever comes first.

Its high-density lithium-ion battery has a 71.4kWh capacity that is expected to deliver a driving range of more than 280 miles on the WLTP rating. Figures depend on version and remain provisional at this stage, prior to homologation.

Thanks to its heating system, including a heat pump, reliability is also maintained in sub-zero temperatures, with only a modest reduction in range compared to competitor models. Toyota claims that the battery can be fast-charged without compromising safety or service life. An 80% charge can be achieved in around 30 minutes with a 150kW fast-charging system (CCS2). At launch, the bZ4X is equipped with a 6.6kW on-board charger; from Q4 2022, a new 11kW three-phase charger will be introduced.

Key to the battery’s life expectancy is a system of multiple monitoring of the voltage, current and temperature, from individual cell level. If any abnormal heat generation is detected, controls are automatically triggered. Countermeasures have been put in place to mitigate any material degradation and there are safeguards in the manufacturing process to prevent foreign matter from entering the battery. In a Toyota first, the battery is water-cooled.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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