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The world's largest carmaker is putting old criticisms to bed for good, and roaring into the EV scene with a grand, varied and colourful vision of its future.

17 Dec 2021

Up till very recently, Toyota had been the target of near-unanimous criticism for being slow on its uptake of electric vehicles. As Tesla sales skyrocketed, the Germans scrambled to roll out electric SUVs and high performance grand tourers. Meanwhile, people were left scratching at their heads at exactly how Toyota would play catch up.

On Tuesday evening, Toyota answered. Loudly.

President of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda, stands proudly among the firm's lineup of EVs
In a stunning show of hand move, a media event at MEGAWEB Tokyo pulled the curtains back on not just one, but a whopping 15 new EVs. Personally helming the event was president of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda himself, who claimed that these models will hit the streets in the near future, led by the bZ4X Crossover in early 2022 that is already being prepped for production at the Motomachi Plant. 

It's unlikely that all of these cars will remain exactly in their current form, since most of them were revealed with placeholder working names (there were also no specific dates). But don't be fooled; Toyota is intentional about everything, and if they've made it to the stage, they'll probably make it onto our roads too. Here are the 15 new EVs that the group says will constitute its 'showroom of the future'. 

First line of order: The all new bZ series 

The bZ 'Compact SUV': The coupe-SUV trend persists
In line with what we've already been hearing over the past year, it appears Toyota is placing emphasis on demarcating its first EVs with a brand-new, unique division: beyond Zero (the lower and upper cases are intentional).

Dedicated battery-housing platforms were designed from the ground up specially for the bZ EVs. Apart from the bZ4X Crossover, four other cars are officially joining the list. 

1. bZ 'Compact SUV': The first among the new entrants is the bZ 'Compact SUV', which appears to be the spiritual successor to the C-HR with its wide stance and sloping roofline. Will the auto industry's embrace of coupe-SUV styling persist in the era of EVs? After all, the side silhouette of the 'Compact SUV' does remind one of recent runaway star, the Polestar 2. Toyoda says its styling 'can invite you to want to get in and go for a drive'. We actually agree.

The bZ 'Small Crossover' resembles the Aygo X
2. bZ 'Small Crossover': Then, there's also the boxier bZ 'Small Crossover', a compact crossover that bears striking resemblance to the latest Toyota Aygo X, which Toyoda says was designed with Europe and Japan in mind.

Because its smaller size precludes the possibility of fitting a large battery, power efficiency remained at the forefront of the engineering process. The 'Small Crossover' is aiming for a consumption of 125Wh/km, apparently the most efficient in the compact SUV class. (For comparison, the existing Hyundai Kona Electric has an approximate consumption of 130Wh/km.) 

The bZ series is completed by the 'SDN' and 'Large SUV' - for now (seven bZ cars have been confirmed)
3 & 4. bZ 'SDN' and 'Large SUV': Spoken details were scant about the remaining two bZ entrants, with Toyoda only dedicating a line or two to each of them.

Featuring a relatively short rear overhang that brings to mind the Tesla Model 3, we first saw the bZ 'SDN' (sedan), which looks like it may perhaps succeed the Corolla a couple of decades into the future as a volume production model.

On the other hand, the bZ 'Large SUV' is said to have third row seating capabilities. We think this one embodies the essence of the current Toyota Kluger/Highlander and is likely targeted at its customer base. 

The return of an LFA-type with Lexus' electric range

The 'Sports Battery EV' will inherit the 'secret sauce' of the LFA - whatever that means. Exciting
Whopping numbers aside, the arguable bombshell moment of the media event was the unexpected revelation that Toyota and Lexus have been eyeing a successor to the painfully short-lived LFA supercar.

5. Lexus 'Sports Battery EV/Electrified Sport': Codenamed 'Sports Battery EV' (also the 'Lexus Electrified Sport'), the supercar will boast an acceleration time from 0-100km/h "in the low two second range". With an apparently cruising range of an incredible 700km, it will also be a far and away gold medalled marathoner by today's EV standards. 

The team says that they want the Lexus BEV sports car to inherit "the secret sauce" of the LFA, meaning that we already have high expectations, and also high levels of curiosity - considering the memorable V10 engine won't be around anymore - for how the car will perform. Where do we sign up? (Just kidding - we don't have the money for that.)

It appears that the Lexus RZ is very near to production, since it's already being tested on track
6. Lexus RZ: The other car that was given an especially large spotlight is the Lexus RZ (Z stands for 'zero', again), which is already hinted to be production-ready.

At one point, a short film is shown featuring Toyoda at the wheel of the SUV with President of Lexus International and Gazoo Racing (GR) Company, Koji Sato, seated beside him, having quite a lot of fun gunning a camouflaged RZ around a test track. Sato says that he wants people "to be able to identify that it’s a Lexus even as an EV", with the RZ still capturing the luxury marque's spirit.

7. & 8. Lexus 'Electrified Sedan' and 'Electrified SUV': The final two Lexus cars featured include, firstly, the Lexus 'Electrified Sedan', which could succeed anything from the current IS to GS series. Size-wise, we're slanting more towards believing this is a mid-sized executive sedan.

An electric sedan and full-sized SUV also debuted as part of Lexus' projected full-electric range by 2035
There will also be an 'Electrified SUV', which looks significantly larger than the Lexus RZ from the photos. This may well replace the full-sized Lexus LX SUV. 

Toyoda says that the company is aiming for 100% of Lexus sales in North America, Europe and China to be fully electric by 2030, with a similar target being extended to the rest of the world by 2035, at which point, sales will total one million units. 

Toyota's legacy in entirety: Off-roading, track days and shared mobility 

Specific details were lacking for the exciting final row
Specific details were unfortunately not provided for the final row of colourful EVs, although we were given a broad overview of what these cars mean from Toyota's perspective. Whereas the bZ cars have ostensibly been crafted as a subdivision (similar to BMW's or Hyundai's IONIQ cars), this row will supposedly draw more direct reference from existing Toyota offerings. 

Introduced in a video explaining their purposes and depicting them in various scenarios, the exact phrasing used by Toyota draws a clear line between EVs built "on dedicated platforms" and "those related to existing models". As Senior Design General Manager Simon Humphries explained this, a montage playing behind him included footage of the Auris, RAV4, Land Cruiser and Hilux. 

The 'Pickup EV' will be a proper offroader; the 'Compact Cruiser EV'... probably to a lesser extent
9. & 10. Toyota 'Pickup EV' and 'Compact Cruiser EV': An off-roader in particular has received top billing among the new concepts unveiled. Toyota appears to be assuring us that venerable heavy-duty machines like the Hilux and Tundra will continue in an electric world, with the 'Pickup EV' serving as an idea for how their successors will look like.

Another foreshadowed descendant to a current member of the Toyota family is the 'Compact Cruiser EV', which is arguably the most directly referenced model - it's basically a tinier spitting image of the current FJ Cruiser. Whereas the 'Pickup EV' is rendered across hilly off-road terrains with snow-tinged mountains in the background, however, the 'Compact Cruiser EV' is seen pottering about on tarmac and among high-rise buildings.

The 'Crossover EV' and 'Small SU EV' elucidate Toyota's growing acquiescence of prevailing trends
11. & 12.: Toyota 'Crossover EV' and 'Small SU EV':  Joining the 'Compact Cruiser EV' in zipping about the city in the video renderings are the 'Crossover EV' and the 'Small SU EV' (nope, not a typo). Both appear to be full-out acknowledgements on Toyota's part of the persisting trend of softroaders that will never come with all-wheel drive.

The former looks like what a modern day Auris would be like in the future with a jacked up ride height. While it does appear quite wide, it doesn't have the same sort of blatantly sloping roofline that the bZ 'Compact SUV' has. Meanwhile, the 'Small SU EV' carries the essence of the existing Yaris Cross in our eyes, which is already offered with a Hybrid drivetrain. 

'Tis reassuring to see Toyota still having fun, eh?
13. Toyota 'Sports EV': But a proper Toyota lineup wouldn't be complete if it lacked a sports car. Enter: The 'Sports EV' (Humphries reminds us that Akio Toyoda himself is first and foremost an enthusiast).

Low-slung, wide, and aggressively styled with bracket-like LED headlights and huge side air intakes, this looks nothing at all like the current GR 86 or Supra. With its tight cockpit, however, it appears that the 'Sports EV' will be a strict two-seater rather than a 2+2. Still, we're splitting hairs over this. We don't reckon that Toyota would have left sports cars out of its 'showrooms of the future', but it's reassuring nonetheless to finally confirm they're part of its roadmap.  

14. & 15. Toyota 'Mid Box' and 'Micro Box': Last but not least, the 'Mid Box' and 'Micro Box' have been described as EVs delivering "compact ultra-versatility".

The 'Mid Box' and 'Micro Box' extend Toyota's EV vision outside of privately-owned passenger vehicles 
The 'Mid Box' will be targeted at serving both commercial and leisure demands (the video depicts them in use as delivery vehicles, and fascinatingly, also lugging surfboards around). Since no dimensions were confirmed, we're inclined to believe this may be even smaller than the current Townace van, instead falling along kei car design lines, perhaps to rival something like the Suzuki Every.

Meanwhile, the 'Micro Box' appears to align more with the "made for sharing" vision shared by Humphries. With its ultra-dimunitive dimensions, this will be a likely competitor to micro-runabouts like the Renault Twizy and Citroen Ami. (In case you're curious about the final block-on-wheels of the row, that's the autonomous e-Palette pod, and we're not including it in our list because it isn't new.)

Showroom of the future?

Shape-shifter: Toyota has more than demonstrated its transcendent appeal (Pictured: The GR 86)
Part of Toyota Motor Group's worldwide domination since the 1970s has arguably been its ability to appeal to every single type of consumer - the first-car owner, the motoring enthusiast, the adventurous off-roading seeker or the family man.

It appears doubly determined to continue this, with the theme of segment-, demographic-, and budget-transcending appeal recurring throughout the event. As Toyoda himself acknowledges, "it is difficult to make everyone happy with a one-size-fit-all option... That is why Toyota wants to prepare as many options as possible". 

All eyes are now on the bZ4X Crossover, Toyota's first mass production BEV model arriving in 2022
Where Toyota has felt aloof over the past few years, Tuesday was a culmination of its 180 degree reversal. Landing punch after punch - from the LFA-successor revelation, to flexing its history in the development of proprietary drivetrain technologies - it wiped clean any niggling doubts that it isn't taking the future of EVs seriously.

30 BEVs are now in the pipeline to be introduced by 2030, with an annual sales target of 3.5 million vehicles (or one-third of its current volume). In tandem, Toyota is confident of success, holding its "accumulated experience" up as "an asset that gives [them] a competitive edge" towards a goal of building "an EV for everyone".

Few carmakers can deliver a statement like that so convincingly. After all, which other name does one think of when they think of 'a car for everyone'? We may just see Japan's consummate giant hold on to its lead.

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