Toyota showcases new electric crossovers amid its commitment to a multi-fuel future
Toyota presented its plans at the annual Kinshiki Forum to achieve full carbon neutrality in its European operations by 2040. While that extends to all parts of the business, including logistics and manufacturing, it also means a raft of new vehicles. As part of Toyota’s “multi-path” approach that comes with the grandiose tagline of “leaving no one behind”, internal combustion engines and hybrid power are still in the mix for now, although there is a greater focus than ever on zero-emission vehicles. . Hydrogen will play a role in this, although battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are the focus of attention when it comes to passenger cars, and Toyota has confirmed the launch of five new electric vehicles between 2024 and 2026.
The Urban SUV concept is close to production
One of the first new Toyota BEVs to hit the market will be a compact SUV to compete in the same segment as the Yaris Cross. A design concept for this model called the Urban SUV concept was presented at the Kinshiki event and the new vehicle will be unveiled in production form in early 2024. The high seating position will be paired with interior versatility according to Andrea Carlucci, Vice President of Toyota. Motor Europe (TME) – This is expected to mean a sliding back seat.
Although only a few technical specifications have been released, it has been confirmed that the new B-segment SUV will be available with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive thanks to the use of single or dual motors. Additionally, there will be two different battery capacities to choose from.
The electric car that tops the group will be the “design champion”
Following its global debut at the Shanghai Motor Show earlier this year, the Toyota bZ Sport Crossover Concept has been repainted in silver and the ‘bZ’ part of the name has been quietly dropped for its European premiere. However, this BEV – or something very similar – is on its way to production, and is expected to be launched in 2025. It is the product of a joint venture established in China by Toyota and BYD.
The Sport Crossover concept is an extravagantly designed vehicle, referred to as the company’s future “design hero”, a halo model that sits atop its expanding electric vehicle range. Its name and design suggest the showroom model will be a low-slung 4×4 coupe, while its dimensions place it above most other cars in the Toyota range. It is promised to have a large trunk and ample rear legroom, but no technical details are available about the car.
Last year’s bZ Compact SUV concept is also expected to be unveiled soon as a new BEV, while the latest two electric models are also likely to be SUV-like.
An electric sports car is also on the cards
The Toyota FT-Se recently debuted at the Japanese Mobility Show, a small two-seat electric sports car, and although it doesn’t take into account the five new electric models promised by 2026, it is an electric successor to many cars. The beloved Toyota MR2 will see the light of day in the future. It’s promised to be “low, light and fun” thanks in part to new battery technology with high energy density. The model features a GR (Gazoo Racing) badge on its front, although Masahito Watanabe – General Manager of GR Vehicle Development Division – said Driving.co.uk It’s currently just a design concept from Toyota and GR that focuses on the company’s (highly successful) motorsport activities, not new road cars.
Both Toyota and Lexus are studying the possibility of simulating the interaction of a manual gearbox in their electric sports cars. This will become part of Lexus’ new operating system called Arene, which is designed around customizing each car’s driving characteristics and feel to its driver’s preferences.
Although not available in Belgium at this year’s event, Lexus’ electric sports concept is still earmarked for future production. It will likely use Tesla’s so-called “Gigacasting” production technology, allowing for more design freedom and better packaging. The luxury brand will also target further downsizing and weight reduction, as previewed by the Lexus LF-ZC, a compact saloon with similar exterior dimensions to the Lexus IS, but more interior space than the much larger Lexus ES. A new production car scheduled for launch in 2026 will reportedly be previewed.
Battery technology is at the core of the new models
Toyota has big plans for battery technology too, although the new developments won’t arrive in time for the five new electric cars it has promised by 2026. First will be a traditional lithium-ion battery with a much higher energy density, referred to as a “performance” battery. It is claimed to offer twice the driving range of the current Toyota bZ4X (up to 318 miles) while costing 20 per cent less to manufacture.
On the subject of cost reduction, the next battery type will use the cheaper lithium iron phosphate (LFP) layout in a new form and using a bipolar structure. Compared to the bZ4X battery, this should increase the range by 20 percent, but also cut the cost by a significant 40 percent.
For high-performance models, there will be another battery featuring a high-nickel cathode and a bipolar structure to reduce cost and extend driving range further.
Finally, Toyota appears ready to bring its vaunted solid-state batteries into production. “We have achieved a technological breakthrough that has overcome the long-standing challenge of solid-state battery durability,” said Andrea Carlucci. “A method for mass production is currently being developed and we are striving for commercialization in 2027-2028 with a production capacity of tens of thousands of vehicles.”
Solid-state batteries are expected to provide greater safety, less weight, and faster charging than current liquid electrolyte technology, although there have been challenges in their construction so far that have delayed their introduction. Other automakers are known to be close to achieving a similar feat.
Hydrogen is unforgettable
Some media interpreted Toyota’s announcement at the Japanese Mobility Expo to mean it was backing away from developing hydrogen technology for use in passenger cars, but it rejected that suggestion at the Kinshiki event, one of the main topics of discussion in Brussels. The use of hydrogen energy was to achieve carbon neutrality. It is recognized that its immediate use is in a wide range of applications beyond automobiles. Toyota’s hydrogen-powered fuel cells are already used in freight and trucks, and a new fleet of heavy-duty hydrogen-fueled vehicles is set to decarbonize Toyota’s logistics operations in Europe in the very near future.
In Japan and China, the fuel cell Toyota Crown will be available alongside the current hydrogen fueled Toyota Mirai. The latter is already available in Europe, and as part of its link to the 2024 Paris Olympics, Toyota will add another 500 models of this large vehicle to its fleet of 1,000 hydrogen-fueled taxis currently operating in the French capital. In fact, Toyota intends to bring a massive 2,650 vehicles to Paris for the Olympics, including old diesel buses that have been converted to fuel cell power. It claims the fleet will have a 50 per cent lower carbon footprint than achieved in previous Olympics.
Toyota also suggests that the next generation of fuel cell technology will come with a 20 percent increase in driving range and a reduction in costs of more than 30 percent. It is scheduled in 2026.
However, Toyota is also continuing its research into using hydrogen in internal combustion engines. This has already been proven in motorsport in small numbers by the company, which is actively working to turn the ambitious GR H2 Racing concept into a tangible reality to race at Le Mans in 2026.