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Toyota opens up about its battery EV strategy, shows off new SUVs


An array of Toyota and Lexus EV concepts shown on stage in Tokyo in 2021
Enlarge / Toyota is playing EV catchup, but it’s evidently been busy behind closed doors working on some ideas, as seen above.

Noriaki Mtsuhashi/N-RAK PHOTO AGENCY

Despite being a pioneer in hybrid cars, Toyota failed to translate that knowledge and experience into a strong battery electric vehicle portfolio. Although the company collaborated with Tesla early in the last decade, it has recently taken to lobbying governments to water down decarbonization strategies rather than churning out BEVs. But that situation looks set to change—at least in terms of the company presenting a stronger lineup of fully electrified products.

On Tuesday in Tokyo, the automaker held a briefing to discuss more details about its BEV plan. “Specifically, we plan to roll out 30 battery EV models by 2030, globally offering a full lineup of battery EVs in the passenger and commercial segments,” said Toyota President Akio Toyoda.

Toyota wants to sell 3.5 million BEVs per year by that date, and it showed off a diverse array of EV concepts, many of which it says should appear as road versions in the next few years.

Toyota’s first modern BEV will be the bZ4x crossover—think an electric alternative to its bestselling RAV4. Toyota will stick with the bZ branding—for beyond Zero—for other BEVs, including a compact SUV and a small crossover that Toyoda described as “a small battery EV with a comfortable interior designed with Europe and Japan in mind.” Toyoda says that the diminutive BEV should have a range efficiency of 125 Wh/km (5 miles/kWh).

The presentation also offered no details about the small gold electric sports car concept seen hiding at the back. It’s called the Sports EV, and we’ll be asking Toyota more about it, including when we might be able to test it.

This is the Lexus Sports Battery EV concept.
Enlarge / This is the Lexus Sports Battery EV concept.

Noriaki Mtsuhashi/N-RAK PHOTO AGENCY

Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus has not been forgotten, either—like many other luxury car companies, it’s going to become electric-only. The plan is for Lexus to be an entirely BEV brand by 2030 in North America, Europe, and China, with 100 percent of its global sales being BEVs within another five years.

The first of these will be the RZ, an electric SUV that Toyoda (who races in his spare time) can be seen driving enthusiastically in an on-track demonstration. Toyoda is probably looking forward to the arrival of Lexus’ Sports Battery EV, an electric replacement for the LFA supercar that will use solid state batteries (as long as Lexus can get them to work).

Earlier this year, Toyota revealed that it will spend $13.6 billion on batteries between now and 2030. $3.4 billion of that will go toward North American BEV batteries, and last week, the automaker announced that it will build a $1.3 billion battery factory in North Carolina. Called the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, this plant will come online in 2025, creating 1,750 new jobs and producing enough batteries for 1.2 million vehicles per year once all six production lines are running.

Another look at Toyota and Lexus's array of BEVs under development.
Enlarge / Another look at Toyota and Lexus’s array of BEVs under development.

Noriaki Mtsuhashi/N-RAK PHOTO AGENCY



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