It's been a long time coming, but Lexus is set to make a big step towards a production EV when it reveals an EV concept at the Tokyo Motor Show. This is a departure from parent company Toyota's direction of pursuing hybrid and hydrogen technology as it moves towards a low and zero emissions fleet.
A piece in Autocar suggests that the concept may well bear more than a passing resemblance to the LF-SA Concept which was shown at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. In fact, it quotes Lexus Vice President, Koji Sato as saying that, “we feel that our future could resemble this design”.
Assuming this is correct and Sato is being interpreted correctly, the EV concept bound for Tokyo would be a small but upright city car that draws many aspects of its look from existing Lexus design language. For example, the 'spindle grille' has been touted to remain in some form with the brand's design boss, Koichi Suga, stating that “...it's the face of the car, so it's really a necessary part of the brand identity.”
Apparently the final design is yet to be signed off by Toyota President, Akio Toyoda, and, according to Suga, there is a desire to break from the Lexus norm. “Because it's an EV, (customers) are also going to expect something that's futuristic, something more non-traditional,” (sic.).
Underpinning the car will be an electric platform that will almost certainly be shared with Toyota as both brands are planning to launch 10 EVs by 2025. This may well be a direct derivative of the platform that Toyota is developing alongside Subaru.
A departure from an engineering point of view is Lexus's desire to pursue in-wheel motor technology which it thinks will offer better agility, stability and excitement. However, it concedes that this may well be a pipe dream for now.
Despite the fact it looks like a Lexus EV would seem to be not too far off, the fact of the matter is that Toyota as a group is still very much concentrating its efforts on hybrid drive and hydrogen fuel cells. Obviously, Toyota has probably the most significant experience in hybrid drive of any manufacturer, making this an obvious route for electrification. Similarly, it has been devoting a lot of R&D into hydrogen fuel cells.
Vice President Sato told Autocar: “The hybrid technology is our core. Our expertise in electrical control technology and battery technology can be used for other types of alternative powertrains, even fuel cells.”
Whilst hydrogen is moderately well established in some markets, such as Scandinavia, in most it is still very niche. As such, an EV would seem to be a very sensible move by Lexus.