bZ Compact SUV Concept Could Be Toyota's Second EV

While the exterior appears to be near production-ready, the wild interior with the steering yoke and curved display screens might need toning down.

  • Toyota revealed its bZ Compact SUV Concept during the LA Auto Show, the second battery-electric vehicle in what promises to be 30 of them by 2030.
  • The concept is smaller than the current bZ4X crossover and likely will be called the bZ3X if it goes into production.
  • No powertrain information was given, aside from the fact that it will be all-electric.

    Okay, so Toyota is a little behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to production electric vehicles, with a grand total of one—the bZ4X crossover. But it just revealed what could be its next electric vehicle, and the automaker has laid out a plan to offer 30 electric vehicles of all shapes and sizes by 2030. So things are promising.

    Toyota’s leisurely pace up until now with EVs may have been due to its success with hybrid-electric vehicles, a segment it dominated for 25 years starting with the first, groundbreaking Prius. In fact, just seconds before it introduced the bZ Compact SUV Concept at this week's LA Auto Show, it debuted the new Prius and Prius Prime hybrids.

    Then there’s Toyota’s refusal to give up on hydrogen as a fuel. For years it has been plugging hydrogen fuel cells and, indeed still offers the Mirai, now in its second generation, despite the rest of the world’s seeming acceptance of battery-electric cars as the way of the future.

    The concept is six inches shorter overall than the existing bZ4X, and four inches shorter in the wheelbase.

    But enough electro-whining! Toyota's electric future was laid out almost exactly 11 months ago in a big announcement by company President Akio Toyoda. That future includes everything from pickup trucks and sports cars to super cars and cute little electric vans. But the biggest seller, everyone knows, is the crossover. Hence the launch last year of the bZ4X electric vehicle and the introduction last night of this new concept, which, if it goes into production, will likely be called the bZ3X (bZ stands for Beyond Zero).

    “We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of the Beyond Zero moniker,” said Toyota Group Vice President and General Manager David Christ, who spoke at the concept’s unveiling. “With an aerodynamic design coupled with intuitive tech features never before seen in a Toyota model, the bZ Concept showcases another possible vision of the very near future with our battery-electric vehicles.”

    The concept is designed from the ground up as a BEV, using what Toyota calls “a clean-vital design approach.” What the heck is that?

    “This approach aims to express what’s special about battery-electric vehicles while also offering fun-to-drive, exhilarating performance,” Toyota explained. “It represents a vehicle with zero emissions, utilizing eco-friendly, sustainable materials, that also brings dynamic performance, leading technology, and a stylish appearance.”

    The bZ4X is built on Toyota's BEV-dedicated e-TNGA platform, which likely underpins this latest bZ concept as well. While the concept's exterior styling is largely in line with the bZ4X already in production, the futuristic interior with its steering yoke, curved screens, and floating center console bares no resemblance to the bZ4X. Also inside, seating is made from plant-based and recycled materials to follow Toyota's Beyond Zero theme.

    Check out that cool curved screen.
    Mark Vaughn

    As for connectivity, one of the main drivers of purchasing decisions nowadays, the concept has an in-car personal agent named “Yui,” which connects the driver and passengers with the vehicle. Yui is a feminine Japanese given name, according to Wikipedia. It’s not clear if you access the interface by saying, “Hey Yui,” or maybe “Ne yui,” which may translate simply as, “Hey you.” We’ll see.

    That’s the benefit of calling your vehicle a concept—you don’t have to answer too many questions. But it appears Toyota is making up for lost time in the EV market.

    If you're in the market for an EV, does Toyota's bZ4X or this latest, smaller concept catch your eye? Please comment below.

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