The ongoing Auto Shanghai 2021 motor show is the first global automotive showcase event since the disruption caused by the global pandemic. Toyota as such is riding on this event to announce their first big step towards fully electric vehicles (EV) with the Toyota bZ4X.

It is however more than just another vehicle from the Japanese giant, as the bZ or “beyond zero” communicates much more. In its development of battery EVs, Toyota has taken distinct approaches based on the idea of utilising the advantages of battery EVs, considering CO2 reductions from life cycle analysis or LCA.

The new Toyota bZ series of BEVs takes on a “human-centred” approach aimed at widespread use in regions such as China, the US, and Europe and incorporates the desire to provide customers with value that exceeds mere “zero emissions.”

As reported earlier, Toyota will be partnering with Subaru on the new battery EV SUV project and the result is the e-TNGA battery EV dedicated platform. Subaru will also contribute its expertise in the development of the new electric all-wheel drive control system.

Chief Technical Officer, Masahiko Maeda, said, “To provide and meet customers’ needs of multiple sizes and styles, it is difficult for us to do by ourselves. It was jointly developed with our expert partners sharing our beliefs about manufacturing in their fields. By utilising all of our strengths, a battery EV with new values can be created,”

As such, the announcement of BYD of China, Daihatsu and Suzuki as part of the development partners of the bZ project.    

A key highlight of the Toyota bZ4X and perhaps the bZ series is the steer-by-wire technology. Toyota further emphasises the technology with the uniquely shaped steering wheel. The company says it is the first vehicle in the world to have the steering wheel completely disconnected from the steering system.

A steer-by-wire system allows for better calibration of the steering response, reduced vibrations and also better packaging of the interior.

Nissan Motor’s Infiniti Q50 and Q60 models also featured a steer-by-wire system, however, there is conventional steering hardware with a coupling clutch acting as a back-up should the system encounter any interruption or malfunction.

Toyota plans to produce the Toyota bZ4X in Japan and China; it hopes to begin worldwide sales of the model by the middle of 2022 with seven other bZ models planned for introduction by 2025.  

At that same timeline, Toyota in total will have 15 EVs joining the fleet of electrified vehicles (hybrid, fuel-cell and battery EVs) that will increase from 55 at the end of last year to 70 models.