Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

WATCH: This is Toyota’s SA-bound all-electric SUV, the bZ4X

Toyota joins the electric party amid Western Europe's looming carbon neutral targets.

Just because Toyota has not jumped on the all-electric car band wagon locally yet, does not mean the Japanese manufacturer is lagging behind other carmakers in future energy solutions.

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In fact, the Toyota Prius became the world’s first hybrid full-scale production vehicle when it was rolled out all of 25 years ago

. The Prius paved the way for further developments which included fuel cell electric, hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric and ultimately, battery electric.

By focussing on various new energy options, Toyota has not put all its eggs in one basket as the brand wants to be able to offer different markets with different solutions.

While Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) firmly believes hybrid technology is the interim energy solution locally for at least the next few decades, the picture in Western Europe differs dramatically.

There the transition from internal combustion engines to full-electric technology has been accelerated over the last decade by the strict emission laws.

ALSO READ: Hybrids and electric cars: More affordable than you’d think

The fast-approaching dates for carbon neutral vehicles in Western Europe have seen Toyota Europa finally rolling out its long-awaited first fully electric mass-produced SUV in the Danish capital of Copenhagen last month.

The Citizen was one of only three South African motoring titles to join Toyota in driving the bZ4X during this special occasion in Scandinavia.

TSAM is not ready to bring the car to South Africa just yet. When it does arrive, it will not be before 2023 and only in very limited numbers.

Developed alongside fellow Japanese manufacturer Subaru, Toyota calls the vehicle the bZ4X. The bZ is short for “Beyond Zero”, which is its sub brand for cars with zero emissions. The 4 indicates size, which is in this case medium, while the X denotes that it is a crossover.

The bZ4X is built on Toyota’s dedicated platform for fully electric cars, eTNGA. This platform sees the battery built into the chassis by virtue of 96 different cells, entirely under the car’s floor.

Compared to other Toyota products, the bZ4X takes to the RAV4 the most. The lack of a front grille opening and distinctively sharp lines does create a rather futuristic look, but with enough Toyota design elements not to alienate it too much from its family tree.

Two models were introduced at first a front-wheel drive unit with a front-mounted 150 kW electric motor, and an all-wheel drive version which features an 80 kW motor on each axle for a combined output of 160 kW.

Watch this space as The Citizen gives its impressions on the bZ4X launch drive next week.

Since our drive, more than 2 000 models have been recalled due to a risk that their wheels might come off.

According to Toyota, there is a chance that all of the hub bolts on the wheel can loosen to a point where the wheels might detach. The cause is still being investigated as the carmaker hopes to sort out the problem.

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