When Tesla eventually released the Model S with a yoke instead of a driving wheel, there was little doubt that the company was starting a trend. Now Toyota is making it known it, too, would be selling a car you will drive with a yoke like on a race track.
We have heard about Toyota’s first all-electric car, the compact BZ4X SUV, one of the first fruits of the Japanese company’s new focus on electric mobility. It debuted this year at the Shanghai Auto Show, but Toyota has decided to release more information about the upcoming car.
This wing-shaped yoke will not have a physical connection with the front tries as Toyota has implemented a steer-by-wire system. This technology uses software to control the turning of the wheels. The advantages include not needing to change grips to do harder steering since the yoke will only turn up to 150 degrees. Picture it as changing a bicycle’s direction with the handlebar.
How useful a yoke is over a steering wheel continues to generate debate, with drivers who have tested the Model S claiming it brings no tangible benefit to the driving experience and even makes things a bit awkward.
However, Toyota will sell a version of the BZ4X that uses the familiar steering wheel for buyers who want to stick to what they are used to.
The BZ4X packs an optional solar roof that Toyota claims can add up to 1,800 km of driving distance per year. Few cars offer this option, and the question of whether the extra range is worth it can only be answered when the EV hits the road.
On a higher scale of usefulness is the battery with bi-directional charging capability, making it possible to power your home or charge another vehicle with the BZ4X.
Toyota has built the BZ4X on the new e-TNGA platform for electric vehicles co-developed with Subaru, who is also making its own car based on the platform. The platform has many features built-in, like all-wheel drive, steer-by-wire, regenerative braking, etc. More vehicles using the platform will arrive in the future. Toyota plans to release 15 purely electric vehicles by 2025.
Toyota is an investor in Subaru.
In the trim that contains a yoke, the driver will see the dashboard better, even though it is set back further. The touchscreen center console contains physical buttons also present on the steering wheel or yoke, unlike Tesla who includes as few physical buttons as it can get away with in its cars.
The BZ4X is offered with two different powertrains; one that produces 201 hp with the electric motor mounted on the front axle and yields a 310 miles range, and the second an all-wheel-drive with 286 miles per battery charge. The range estimates are from WLTC, which are usually higher than the more realistic EPA. Both powertrains draw from a 71.4 kWh battery pack, putting it on the same footing as the Volkswagen ID.4 and Nissan Ariya.
The first buyers will get the BZ4X in the middle of next year in Toyota’s local market. There is no information yet on when and whether it would be sold in the US. In the same way, we still do not have pricing details or where it would be made yet but we expect to know more in the coming months.
Toyota used to be a leader in electric vehicles, with its hybrid Prius achieving iconic status, but the Japanese carmaker chose to focus on hydrogen-powered vehicles, instead of building on its initial lead in EVs. It believed the hybrid was a placeholder until its hydrogen-fuel tech matured.
However, with its hydrogen-fuel tech not appearing to be making lots of progress, it seems Toyota is finally taking EVs seriously, going by its latest moves. For example, Toyota has announced a $13.6 billion investment in batteries in the next ten years, which will support its push to electrify its product lineup.
Whether Toyota can catch up with other carmakers in EV production is open to debate, although, with a reputation as the biggest auto manufacturer by volume, it cannot be ruled out just yet.