Toyota unveils 1st exclusively electric model under Lexus brand

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takashi Watanabe, Toyota Motor Corp. Chief Engineer at Lexus, speaks about the RZ at its online launch on April 20.

Toyota Motor Corp. has unveiled details of the RZ, the first exclusively electric vehicle model under its Lexus brand, hoping to make its presence felt in the luxury EV market.

Electric vehicles are more expensive than gasoline-powered cars, and thus luxurious cars are expected to take a leading position in the EV market, and there is hope that the new Lexus RZ will become Japanese carmakers’ global frontrunner in that arena.

The automaker intends to strengthen its presence in the high-end market, in which Japanese makers lag behind their U.S., European and Chinese competitors.

Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer at Lexus, said at the RZ’s online launch on April 20: “We have advanced Lexus design and driving performance even further with electrification technology. This model embodies the future of the electrification of Lexus.”

The RZ is the luxury brand’s second entry into the electric vehicle market following the UX300e, a compact sport-utility vehicle launched in 2020.

While the UX came in gasoline, hybrid and EV models, the RZ is designed exclusively as an electric vehicle. The carmaker aims to promote its advanced technology and quality to establish the Lexus brand in the electric vehicle field.

Toyota plans to launch the RZ in Japan, North America, Europe, China and other markets starting in winter of this year.

While EVs are more expensive than gasoline-powered and hybrid vehicles, their profit margins are said to be lower than those of gasoline-powered vehicles due to the higher cost of batteries and other components. Once sales of luxury brands like Lexus get on track, the company is more likely to secure profits.

Many rivals

In Europe and the United States, major manufacturers are already focusing on high-end electric cars. Germany’s Mercedes-Benz AG’s EQC and BMW AG’s iX have been launched in Japan, and Tesla Inc.’s Model Y is scheduled to go on sale. All are strong rivals for the RZ.

The transition to electric vehicles for luxury cars will continue to accelerate in Europe.

Mercedes-Benz plans to convert all of its new cars to electric vehicles by 2030, and Audi AG of Germany plans for all new models launched after 2026 to be EVs. Sweden’s Volvo Car Corp. has also announced a plan to make all its models EVs by 2030.

New models in summer

In December last year, Toyota set a target of selling 3.5 million electric vehicles globally, including 1 million Lexus units, by 2030. It plans to make the Lexus lineup fully electric across the globe by 2035.

Toyota Operating Officer Koji Sato announced April 20 that Toyota will unveil a new Lexus electric vehicle as early as this summer.

“We will deploy the electrification technology we have acquired through the development of the RZ to all Lexus electric vehicles.” The RZ will be a touchstone for Lexus to determine whether it can compete with the world’s leading brands in the EV field.

Joint development with Subaru

The RZ is a five-seat SUV that can travel approximately 450 kilometers in WLTC (worldwide-harmonized light vehicles test cycle) mode on a single charge

Following the planned launch of Toyota’s first mass-produced EV, the bZ4X, in May, the new model will be built on an EV-specific chassis that was jointly developed with Subaru Corp.

A new four-wheel drive system utilizing electrification technology is being adopted for the first time in a Lexus vehicle. The system automatically controls the front and rear driving forces according to driving and road surface conditions.

The vehicle’s design was modified to reduce aerodynamic drag, thereby extending the vehicle’s cruising range.

The battery control technology cultivated in the development of hybrid vehicles has been improved to achieve a battery capacity retention rate of 90% or more after 10 years.