Toyota has provided a first look at the first Lexus electric vehicle to be sold in the U.S.—a crossover called the RZ, leading a new brand of “Lexus electrified” vehicles to be designated by the letter Z.
The RZ’s debut, albeit in a camo suit to help disguise up-close details, was part of a larger overview of EV strategy. And as part of an accelerated push for electric vehicles, Toyota announced that it’s aiming to make its Lexus luxury brand the more EV-focused of the two, shifting entirely to battery electric vehicles in the U.S., Europe, and China by 2030.
Toyota and Lexus annual EV sales targets for 2030 - December 2021
Meanwhile, Toyota has said that by 2030 battery electric vehicles and fuel-cell models combined will add up to just 15% of U.S. sales. Globally, Toyota says that it is now targeting 3.5 million battery electric vehicles annually by 2030, and with the debut of 15 concepts, most of them production-bound, it promised “an EV for everyone.” Based on sales of about 7.6 million units globally for the latest full fiscal year, that’s nearly half of present-day sales.
“In particular, we believe that the Battery EV will become the future symbol of Lexus as a model that most clearly expresses the evolution of the automobile brought about by electrification,” said Koji Sato, the president and chief branding officer for Lexus International.
Lexus RZ prototype
The Lexus target is noteworthy on many levels—firstly because Toyota has shied away from putting a retirement date on internal combustion, or its vaunted hybrid technology, and secondly because its target for “100% BEV” precludes technologies like hydrogen fuel cells. So after reports of fuel-cell models in the works, Lexus may at last be closing the door on the potential that it teased in the LF-FC concept back in 2015.
Lexus has previously confirmed that the RZ is due to arrive in the U.S. in 2022, likely as a 2023 model, as it’s expected to be badged as the RZ 450e. That corresponds to how Lexus has traditionally used the lowercase "h" for hybrids.
Lexus RZ prototype, with CEO Akio Toyoda
Toyota offered little additional information about the Lexus RZ, other than making clear that it will be fun-to-drive. With the sporty boost that CEO Akio Toyoda has given the company's vehicles through his tenure, the smile as he drives it is telling.
In the U.S., Toyota executives have suggested that future Toyota EVs will target affordability, not range, while Lexus models will target more range and greater performance.
Although the brand still hasn’t spelled out the platform the RZ rides on, it’s expected to use the same e-TNGA platform as the 2023 Toyota BZ4X and 2023 Subaru Solterra twins. That would make it similar in size to the current Lexus NX.
Lexus Electrified Sedan - Photo credit: Noriaki Mitsuhashi/N-Rak Photo Agency
2023 Lexus RZ - Photo credit: Noriaki Mitsuhashi/N-Rak Photo Agency
Lexus Electrified SUV - Photo credit: Noriaki Mitsuhashi/N-Rak Photo Agency
Lexus appears to have carried over some design elements from the LF-Z Electrified concept unveiled in March—most notably, the blacked-out rear pillar, but with a far more upright and SUV-like profile in its production form.In addition to the RZ, Lexus showed three other concepts for the brand: the Lexus Electrified SUV, the Lexus Electrified Sedan, and the Lexus Electrified Sport, with the latter offering a 0-62 mph acceleration in the low-two-second range, a cruising range of more than 435 miles, and the potential use of solid-state batteries. As such, it might potentially occupy a future space that might combine the roles of the exclusive, race-focused LFA supercar and the present-day LC luxury coupe.
In a question-and-answer session following the presentation, Toyota said that it still faces hurdles in “consumer acceptability” of sustainable products, and that each region is becoming more diverse in its vehicle needs. But with Lexus newly committed to EVs—even for the U.S.—the question now becomes: Will Toyota accelerate its EV plan for the U.S., too?