Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023 with electric “manual” supercars and hyper-charging batteries

I attended the Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023, the event organized by the European branch of the Japanese giant in Brussels to showcase innovations, concepts, and visions for the short and medium term.

The event reaffirms the Beyond Zero strategy, which we have come to know, expanding it to include electric and hydrogen vehicles not only for cars and commercial vehicles but also in motorsports, where Toyota is exploring exciting electric options with simulated manual transmission.

The strategy comprises multiple solutions to adapt to the diverse needs of different European countries: electric way for Denmark, Norway and the rest of Scandinavia, hybrid and intermediate solutions for Southern Europe, all with the common goal of achieving carbon neutrality in Europe by 2040.

A great group of new electric cars

Toyota has been subject to various opinions, but its commitment is evident: six new electric vehicles to be introduced to the market by 2026, more than one per year. The first has already arrived, the bZ4X, part of a trio that also includes the Lexus RZ and the Subaru Solterra.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

The second vehicle was introduced at last year’s Kenshiki Forum: the Toyota bZ Compact, a compact electric SUV with the new design seen on the Toyota C-HR and Toyota Prius, more refined and sought-after than what we have been accustomed to. However, its arrival is expected not before 2025.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

Similar, but larger, is the beautiful Toyota Sport Crossover Concept, an elegant and refined solution that will provide the Japanese manufacturer with an alternative to the Tesla Model Y and the Polestar 4, which debuts at Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

There are, of course, no details on the price or much else, except for the sleek design, but it will undoubtedly be one of the electric models positioned at a higher level.

Starting soon with Toyota Urban SUV concept

Closer on the horizon is the debut of the Toyota Urban SUV Concept, an electric proposal in the B-segment that will be presented in its production version by the first half of 2024.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

This suggests that, as with the C-HR, the aesthetics will be fundamentally identical to what we saw in Brussels, simply adapted for mass production. Therefore, it’s unlikely to see the digital rearview mirrors that characterize the prototype, at least in the entry-level versions.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

Measuring 4.3 meters in length, 1.8 meters in width, and 1.6 meters in height, it will be Toyota’s response primarily to the Jeep Avenger, the 2023 Car of the Year, but also to the Volvo EX30, one of the favorites for the 2024 Car of the Year due to its competitive price, range, and premium features. We know nothing about the technical details of the Urban SUV Concept, but it could have a range of over 400 km and no less than 150 horsepower.

Up to solid-state batteries

Alongside the two prototypes, at Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023 there was another, which made its first appearance in Europe but had already debuted last month at the Tokyo Motor Show: the Toyota FT-3e, a futuristic and square-lined crossover coupe, very different from the other two. And not just in terms of design.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

The Toyota FT-3e previews a new platform dedicated to electric vehicles (which will reach its maximum on Lexus, as we will see) and also a new generation of batteries promising charging times from 10 to 80% in just 10 minutes. The new platform aims to minimize weight and optimize aerodynamics for increased efficiency and range.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

For this reason, it has an exterior design that combines stylistic refinement, a futuristic look with square headlights reminiscent of the 1980s, and very simple surfaces. There are also displays on the lower part of the side, projecting information to the approaching driver, such as battery status, air quality, and internal temperature.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

The mentioned new battery generation, the first of the two, is the other significant feature of this prototype, high-performance and with a conventional structure but with doubled driving range and a 20% reduction in costs compared to the bZ4X. The other series, of good quality but at a lower cost, will contribute to the spread of electric vehicles, with a new form, a bipolar structure, and Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) technology as the main material, aiming to increase range by 20% and reduce costs by 40% compared to the bZ4X.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

A third battery will use bipolar technologies and a nickel-rich cathode, also expecting cost reductions and battery extension.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

But the real challenge is solid-state batteries, on which Toyota is already working and plans to commercialize them between 2027 and 2028 with a production capacity of tens of thousands of vehicles.

Lexus LF-ZC: a new idea of electric flagship

The Lexus LF-ZC is also built on the same new platform, a prototype of a new electric flagship (expected in production by 2026) and the ultimate vision of the evolution of cars, both externally and internally. Externally, it takes inspiration from the electric roadster seen last year, anticipating what luxury cars will be like in the medium term. The name stands for Lexus Future Zero-emission Catalyst.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

Together with the LF-ZL concept, not present at Kenshiki, it combines functionality with beauty, following a new design called “provocative simplicity” that evolves Lexus’ identity, using refined and simple design to create a highly impactful presence.

The next generation of Lexus electric vehicles will use a new modular structure that divides the vehicle body into three parts: front, middle, and rear. This will be made possible by using gigacasting, a system that offers greater freedom in the vehicle’s shape. By reducing the number of parts, production time will be dramatically reduced, providing flexibility for the rapid development of different types of vehicles. The front and rear sections can each be produced in less than two minutes.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

The modular structure will also bring the benefits of increased rigidity and weight reduction, contributing to linear and natural vehicle dynamics. Attention will also be paid to repair costs, ensuring that minor accidents do not result in high expenses for customers. The production process will be transformed, with cars moving autonomously through each production stage on an autonomous assembly line.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

This has allowed a complete rethink of the internal layout, with sustainable materials and plenty of technology. Everything is covered in Bamboo, a material typical of Japanese tradition, combining elegance with strength.

The fully digital and intelligent cockpit provides the driver with quick access to controls in an engaging environment. The main feature is a yoke steering wheel to operate Lexus’ exclusive One Motion Grip steering technology, already seen on the RZ, which will arrive by the end of 2024.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

Functions are concentrated on small digital screens on either side of the driver. Operational controls, such as shifting, safety and driving assistance systems, and drive mode selection, are on the left pad, while convenience functions such as audio, climate control, phone, and AI functions are grouped on the right. The concepts also feature digital rearview mirrors and an ultra-wide monitor on the front passenger side for accessing entertainment content and mobility apps.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

The standout feature on the concept car is the new OS Arena, which uses artificial intelligence for a more natural voice recognition system, capable of responding quickly and providing customizable and flexible suggestions, like having a personal advisor or butler. The system will be able to learn the driver’s routines and preferred apps and activate them automatically, without needing to be requested.

Hype on Hydrogen

The vision on hydrogen couldn’t be missing at Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023, as we know Toyota has been working on it for years with the Mirai.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

But efforts will intensify, not only for the production of new vehicles with Fuel Cell technology (and therefore electric but not battery-powered) but also for hydrogen as a synthetic fuel to be used in heavy-duty vehicles and motorsports, where Toyota is achieving results in various sectors. This is why, for example, at Kenshiki, there was also a hydrogen-powered Hilux, which the company intends to bring to the Dakar Rally.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

The hydrogen vision aligns strongly with the EU’s; Brussels has invested 45 billion euros in hydrogen, with 28 for infrastructure. Toyota intends to participate by providing plants to third-party partners to fuel trucks, buses, and even ships.

Here and now: Hilux 48V, Land Cruiser, Lexus LBX and new LCVs

In addition to the medium to long-term vision, the Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023 did not lack already defined products that we have already known or will know soon.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

In particular, Toyota also aims to expand its presence in commercial vehicles with Toyota Professional. The division has brought a renewed range of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) here. Among them, even if it’s “something separate,” is an updated version of the Toyota Hilux pickup, very specific and designed for certain uses but still very appreciated. It arrives with 48 Volt technology, increasing efficiency by 10% and off-road capability thanks to a height of up to 700 mm.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

Proace and Proace City are also getting a refresh. As a result of the alliance with Stellantis, born in 2016 and which has allowed the number of LCVs registered to increase from 46,000 in that year to 119,000 in 2022 with prospects for 140,000 in 2023, the two LCVs completely redesign the external look, more graceful and modern, closer to that of cars.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

Proace, in its electric version, updates the battery and now has a range of up to 350 km, with renewed and digital interiors, including a new touch display. More interesting is the update of the smaller Proace City, which becomes more stylish externally thanks to the Bold design, but especially internally, where the more refined steering wheel design and the large 10.25” display with updated infotainment stand out.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

Externally, there are new rims and chrome finishes, and the LED texture redesigned for the front optics. The range of the electric version increases to 320 km.

Toyota Kenshiki Forum 2023
Image: NordiskBil

A complete novelty is the Proace Max, the missing link: a cousin of the Fiat Ducato, available in diesel or electric. The latter has a 110 kWh battery with a range of 420 km, volume up to 17 m23, and is available in various lengths and heights, up to 6.3 meters. Inside, it is refined and comfortable, with the latest-generation infotainment always compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Finally, the new generation of the Toyota Land Cruiser also debuts, here in black, as well as the small Lexus LBX, a compact hybrid that we will know more about soon.

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