Toyota has been hesitant to join the electric-car party that’s taken the auto world by storm over the last few years. But its first fully electric vehicle is finally on the way, complete with one controversial feature nabbed from Tesla.
On Friday, the carmaker revealed the details of the BZ4X, a battery-powered compact SUV roughly the same size as its RAV4 crossover. It’ll offer an airplane-style steering yoke similar to the one Tesla now includes in the Model S sedan and Model X SUV.
Toyota says the yoke will use a steer-by-wire system, meaning there will be no mechanical link between the wheel and the tires. Instead, everything is done electronically, allowing Toyota to program things so the steerer only has to turn 150 degrees from side to side.
Owners and experts have criticized Tesla’s steering yoke because it’s too awkward to make tight turns that require multiple revolutions of the wheel. Toyota’s steer-by-wire system fixes that. It means drivers won’t need to change their grip, even when making sharp turns.
The yoke will be available in China at first before spreading to other markets. The BZ4X will also have the option of a normal, circular steering wheel. Another interesting feature: the SUV will offer roof-integrated solar panels that can charge its battery.
In terms of range, the BZ4X will be able to travel up to 310 miles on a charge in its front-wheel-drive configuration, or up to 286 miles with all-wheel drive, Toyota says, citing the global WLTC rating system. The US Environmental Protection Agency will likely give it lower range estimates.
The BZ4X launches in the middle of 2022, and US-specific specifications haven’t been announced yet. It’s a twin to the upcoming Subaru Solterra, an SUV that uses the same electric platform jointly developed by the two Japanese automakers.