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Toyota bZ4X EV expected to top RAV4 in many ways, but not sales

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The bZ4X will come with two steering options: One is the traditional, circular steering wheel. The other is a new Formula One-styled wing-shaped handle that connects via steer-by-wire technology.

Toyota says this one-motion control eliminates the need to change grips when negotiating U-turns, garage parking or winding roads. Steer-by-wire also eliminates annoying road vibration and creates more legroom because there is no steering column.

The bZ4X also gets a newly developed lithium ion water-cooled battery designed for long life. The advancement is much bigger, brick-sized cells. This allows Toyota to use fewer cells and a less complicated, lighter and more compact wiring system between them.

The bZ4X uses 96 cells, each packing about 0.74 kilowatt-hour of energy. In the Lexus UX, the other full EV in the company’s lineup, the 288 cells each get 0.19 kWh.

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The batteries for bZ4Xs built in China will be sourced from Chinese battery giant CATL. The batteries for bZ4Xs built at Toyota’s Motomachi plant in Toyota City will come from both CATL and Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, a Toyota joint venture with Panasonic.

The bZ4X exhibited exhilarating spurts of acceleration, in true EV fashion, even though the vehicle runs 0 to 60 mph in only 7.2 seconds — not exactly sports car performance. Still, the handling was quick and rigid, thanks to a stiff new EV-only platform, low center of gravity and liberal use of high-tensile steel. The awd version, with one motor fore, the other aft, felt especially spunky. It’s easy to understand why Toyota bills this as better than the RAV4 Hybrid.

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Toyota says it will announce sales targets closer to the launch date.

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