It’s rather surprising that Toyota, the company that helped popularize the hybrid, hasn't really got on board with electric cars. Instead the company placed all its bets on hydrogen, which hasn’t proved particularly fruitful.
But, despite being very later to the party, Toyota has finally revealed its first dedicated production-electric car. Meet the bZ4X, which packs in solar panels, water-battery cooling, a 252-mile range and more.
We recently took the Toyota bZ4X for a test drive to see just how good is Toyota's first EV?
Toyota bZ4X price and availability
Toyota has revealed that the bZ4X's price will start at $42,000, which gets you a front-wheel drive "XLE" version of the car when it goes on sale sometime in Spring 2022.
A "Limited" variant of the FWD model will cost $46,700, complete with larger wheels and a unique design. If you want an AWD model you'll need to pay $44,080, while a Limited variant of that car costs $48,780.
The Limited models differ in that they have larger wheels, unique color schemes, and a number of special design choices like multi-LED headlights, chrome accents and a lower grille.
Toyota has been quick to note that stock is "extremely limited" (emphasis Toyota's) due to supply chain issues affecting the production of new cars.
Toyota bZ4X battery cooling technology
The bZ4X comes with a 71.4 kWh battery, and the water-cooling tech is there to try and make it last for as long as possible. Heat is the enemy of batteries, and prolonged exposure to high temperatures can speed up degradation and reduce your capacity over time.
Unfortunately, heat is one of the by-products of faster charging, which is pretty essential if you’re planning on driving beyond your car’s typical range.
Other automakers have come up with ways to keep the battery cool during the charging process. Companies like Renault blow cool air over the batter, while the ever-popular Tesla uses a custom coolant to keep temperatures steady.
Toyota has opted for old-fashioned water and claims this means degradation will be as little as 10% after ten years (or 150,000 miles) of driving.
Toyota bZ4X range and solar roof
All four cars are equipped with a standard CCS charging socket, which offers up to 6.6 kW speeds at a Level 2 AC charger. According to Toyota that will recharge the car from "low to full" in around nine hours.
The FWD models can both handle up to 150kW DC rapid charging, which Toyota claims will restore 80% of its power in 30 minutes. The AWD models can, somewhat disappointingly, only handle 100KW speeds.
Drivers will also be able to get solar panels built into the roof, which will be able to offer some additional power to the battery. How much will likely depend on where you live, but if other solar-powered cars are anything to go by it likely won’t be more than a few miles per hour at best.
Unfortunately, Toyota hasn’t revealed any details on the panels, including how much they might cost.
Toyota has confirmed that the range for the front-wheel drive model will be 252 miles, per the EPA standard. The Limited model has a slightly lower 242 miles, thanks to its larger 20-inch wheels.
The AWD model offers less still, because that second motor needs power, meaning you'll get up to 228 miles out of the car. The Limited AWD offers 222 miles of range per charge, once again thanks to the larger wheels.
Toyota will sell the car in front and all wheel drive variants. Front wheel drive models pack in a 150kW motor that can offer 201 hp, a top speed of 100mph and a 0-60 time of 8.4 seconds. Meanwhile the all-wheel drive models offer dual 80kW motors, boosting that power to 214.5bhp and reducing the 0-60 time to 7.7 seconds.
Today bZ4X interior and yoke steering wheel
Inside the car is a 7-inch gauge cluster behind the wheel, plus a larger infotainment screen in the middle of the dashboard. Fortunately, Toyota hasn’t fallen into the trap of putting everything behind the touchscreen, so there are physical buttons for key in-car features like climate control. Apple CarPlay is also supported, and we hope that means Android Auto will also be available.
Originally the car was supposed to come with the option of a Tesla-style yoke steering wheel, as well as a conventional round wheel you'll be used to. However there's no sign of that option on the Toyota website, and all recent images feature the normal round steering wheel - which we are quite happy about.
Toyota bZ4X outlook
While there are still a few unknowns, this paints a pretty clear picture of what Toyota has planned for the car. Honestly? It’s not too bad. Considering various Toyota executives have criticized EVs, it’s a huge surprise that it has an EV at all — let alone one this impressive.
Pricing-wise, Toyota is keeping the bX4X relatively affordable with the starting prices all well under the $50,000 mark. With other automakers increasing prices, that's going to be crucial in helping Toyota compete with companies that have been in this business for years.
But supply chain issues have affected the availability of the car even before it's gone on sale. That's something Toyota is going to need to try and address going forward, lest people go to automakers that can fulfil orders much faster.
- More: Electric car tax credits: What you need to know about EV financial incentives