Is it a concept? Production model?
The first major live in-person auto show in months is happening next week and automakers like Toyota are taking full advantage. The 2021 Shanghai Auto Show kicks off on April 21 and the Japanese automaker will be there with at least one new concept. Or is it a production model? We're not so sure.
What you're looking at is a teaser and video for what appears to be a new battery-electric vehicle. Only the front end is shown in the included images and the video's tagline is "Beyond Zero." A just-uncovered patent filing indicates the vehicle will be called the BZ.
Needless to say, we're intrigued. If it's not a production vehicle, chances are it will preview an upcoming EV that'll soon go on sale. We know Toyota is planning to launch two new battery electrics and one new plug-in hybrid in the US.
It's also possible this is Toyota's version of the EV jointly developed with Subaru that rides on the global e-TNGA platform. Toyota currently lacks a pure battery-electric production vehicle and it needs to launch one soon in order to remain in the game - and one-up Tesla at the same time. This could be accomplished by its supposed game-changing solid-state battery, due sometime this year.
Teslas and other EVs currently utilize lithium-ion batteries but Toyota aims to be the first automaker to use the more advanced battery technology. There's a very good chance this month's reveal is a concept with solid-state batteries that could go on sale by 2023 or 2024, Toyota's target dates for getting the tech to market.
Whether the unnamed model will be mass-produced or relatively limited like the Toyota Mirai (in the US it's sold only in California) remains unclear. Solid-state batteries, compared to lithium-ion, can be charged faster (as little as 10 minutes) and offer over double the range. The race to get solid-state batteries to market not only includes Toyota but also Volkswagen and Tesla. Henrik Fisker recently announced his company is abandoning the technology due to high R&D costs, among other issues. Big-name automakers like Toyota and VW can afford to invest where small players can't.
More details will come during Shanghai which opens its doors to the press on April 19.