Back in December, Toyota gave us the most detailed account yet of its plans to get into the battery-electric vehicle market, lifting the covers of an assortment of BEVs that will begin rolling out this year with the launch of the new Toyota bZ4X SUV.
The all-electric line-up, officials said, will include Toyota- and Lexus-badged vehicles, and today we’re getting a closer look at several of the luxury models, including a battery-powered sedan, two electric SUVs and a zero-emissions sports car that, the automaker says, aims at “reviving the spirit of the iconic Lexus LFA” supercar.
That translates into 0-60 times “in the low two-second range and the cruising distance could exceed 430 miles, thanks to the possible use of solid-state batteries.”
Lexus pointedly avoided giving us any sense of timing for the two-seater — or any of the other BEVs, for that matter — but there’s a clue in that quote. Like its competitors, Toyota wants to migrate from today’s lithium-ion technology to solid-state batteries. They’re expected to be lighter, quicker to charge and, among other things, substantially cheaper.
But solid-state technology is only now beginning to emerge from the research lab. Toyota has set a goal of introducing its first vehicle using the new batteries — a hybrid — in 2024. A full BEV, especially a sports car, isn’t likely to follow until sometime after mid-decade.
While Lexus isn’t saying much about the new battery-electric model it’s spotlighting today —– not even uttering its name — we do have a first clear look. The design has classic sports car proportions, sitting low and wide, with a long nose, a short rear deck and fastback roofline. While there are hints of the original Lexus LFA, you might also find cues from McLaren and even the original Dodge Viper GTS Coupe.
Up front, there is no conventional grille, an increasingly common convention with BEVs, since there’s no need to bring air under the hood for cooling. The vehicle’s motors and battery pack will all be mounted below the load floor, in a skateboard-like platform.
Plenty of power
Considering the performance Lexus promises, we’d be surprised if the sports car features less than two and, more likely, three electric motors. That would give it an electric all-wheel-drive system.
As for range, it would seem likely that the sports car features something on the order of 100 kilowatt-hours. Going to solid-state would make it easier to squeeze such a pack into a relatively compact platform.
One of the more interesting details is the character line that forms a slightly angular S-curve. It is recessed by the front rocker panel, likely to allow for airflow from the front wheel well, reducing turbulence around the tires. Midway through the door panel it angles outward and upward into the rear quarter panel. It seems likely that there’s an air intake used to help cool the sports car’s battery pack and motors.
The three teaser images also appear to suggest that there is no rear window. That would mean some sort of camera system — if Lexus were able to get the necessary approval from federal regulators. There are conventional sideview mirrors but NHTSA has been considering requests from Tesla and others to permit a switch to exterior cameras that would reduce wind drag. Images would be displayed on monitors somewhere along the instrument panel or doors.
Significantly, Lexus refers to none of the three battery-electric vehicles highlighted today as “concepts.” That could simply be a slip-up — intentional or otherwise — or it could be a sign that all three really are close to what we’ll see in production.
That seems most likely the case with the Lexus RZ, the luxury brand’s answer to the Toyota bZ4X crossover set to reach showrooms this year. Positioned as a battery-powered alternative to the current NX model, it shares the same e-TNGA platform used by the electric Toyota model — and, most likely, the other three BEVs Lexus is teasing.
As to the other BEV models, there’s a larger crossover that very well could offer three rows. It borrows key design cues from the RZ but is a bit less sporty and more practical in appearance.
As for the sedan, it actually picks up on some of the design cues seen on the Lexus sports car, including that rising character line that stretches from the bottom of the front wheel well and across both sets of doors, eventually flowing into bulging rear wheel wells.
Lexus was one of the first luxury brands to electrify some of its products, starting with a conventional hybrid version of the old GS line. But, like Toyota, it has been slow to embrace full battery power. The Lexus RZ will be the brand’s first BEV and will come to market for the 2023 model year, along with the Toyota bZ4X, (as well as the Subaru Solterra which shares the same underpinnings).
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