Toyota’s new electric sedan is aimed at the Tesla Model 3. Subscribe to Electric Vehicle News Bitesize Podcast for FREE!
The sedan, possibly called the bZ3, will be launched in Europe, but will debut in China first.
Toyota is on the cusp of one of the fastest and most comprehensive Battery Electric Vehicle launches of any automaker, introducing zero-emission alternatives in each of its core products as well as standalone models to compete in new segments.
The company has been outspoken in recent years that electrification is not the only way to decarbonize the global fleet, but it is committed to bringing a diverse and comprehensive range of electric vehicles to market to grab the most sought-after markets. Successfully covering market segments is critical to maintaining its position as the world’s leading automaker.
Like established mainstream rivals such as Volkswagen, Stellantis, Kia and Hyundai, Toyota is using a bespoke electric vehicle platform – the E-TNGA – as the basis for a new line of electric vehicles that will replace today’s internal combustion engine offerings.
The first to launch was the RAV4-sized bZ4X crossover, which is now shipping to customers awaiting a fix for a wheel fit error that delayed its global launch.
According to a preview of the lineup given by Toyota CEO and President Akio Toyoda late last year, the bZ4X will be followed by a range of mainstream and enthusiast EVs, from city-oriented superminis to rugged vehicles , including road cars, large SUVs, compact utility vehicles and a stylish new sedan targeting some of the world’s most popular electric vehicle models.
Known as the bZ sedan in concept form, but now thought to put the bZ3 moniker into production, the sedan will initially be aimed at the Chinese market, which can still be seen very much in the global shift to SUVs.
Toyota, which recently reworked its Crown flagship into a bold, premium hatchback for China and the U.S., has no plans to bring it to Europe despite an internal combustion engine.
However, the bZ3’s prospects in Europe look solid, with a possible arrival as early as 2024, thanks to the onslaught of similarly positioned new models from rival companies looking to take market share from the Tesla Model 3.
Volkswagen will launch the stylish ID 6 in China next year, Hyundai’s similarly positioned Ioniq 6 will follow in the coming months, and there are a number of electric executive sedans that are rolling out from emerging but rapidly expanding Chinese companies with global ambitions, including NIO, ET5, Xpeng P5 and unconfirmed but likely BYD Seal.
The Seal is interesting, as the new partnership between Toyota and BYD is expected to result in the bZ3 using the Chinese company’s innovative Blade lithium iron phosphate battery technology, which is said to be a safer and more energy-dense alternative to conventional lithium elements that power their competitors. It’s also more compact, which will give the bZ3 a competitive edge in terms of interior space.
Also, UK (and likely EU) law will require all carmakers to achieve zero emissions by 2035, and the bZ3 (4725mm long, 1835mm wide and 1475mm high) looks like a good fit for the role of the best carmaker.
Specifications posted on the website of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology show that the bZ3 will offer either 178 or 238 horse power, with a curb weight of between 1710 and 1840 kilograms and a top speed of 99.2 miles per hour – comparing its figures neatly to its direct competitor.
Range and efficiency figures are still under wraps, but BYD’s new Atto 3 crossover (similar in weight) has a range of 261 miles on a 64.5 kilowatt hour blade battery, so when paired with an aerodynamic sedan with the same hardware, it can improve that range.
Toyota has yet to announce where its upcoming electric vehicle will be built. The bZ4X will be built at the company’s Motomachi plant in Japan and two other Chinese partners, FAW and GAC, in Tianjin and Guangzhou, respectively. Investment in other global factories will be needed to prepare for the electric vehicle era, but it remains to be seen whether the Corolla plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire, is suitable for producing E-TNGA-based cars.
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