Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Cars in the City

Do the numbers on Toyota’s first all-electric SUV


When Toyota introduced the Prius in the U.S. in 1999, it was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle that had both battery and gas engines. It soon became the best-selling hybrid of all time. Now, Toyota debuts its first fully electric vehicle, the bZX4.

The bZ stands for beyond zero emissions. The “4” borrows from a similar Toyota —  the RAV4, and the “X” is the crossover part. Put them all together for a bZX4.

The 2023 model test driven was a Limited all-wheel drive and rings in at $53,256. One of the most important factors in an EV model is the charge. How far can one charge take you?

This vehicle can go about 220 miles on a charge. It’s great for around town driving. But if you’re headed east on I-80, highway driving only gets you about 180 miles per charge, since you’re not braking as much. From Des Moines, that lands you at about the World’s Largest Truck Stop in Walcott. Then it’s time to stop and charge it up.

If you don’t have a charger at home, expect to pay a few thousand bucks in electrical upgrades. A regular 120-volt —  the same plug-in as your cellphone —  can be used but takes 50 hours per charge. A fast charge of 240 volts takes 9.5 hours. Most EV stations can charge up to 80% at about of 30 minutes. Buyers may receive some tax credits for installing electrical in their home. 

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There are lots of numbers to consider. Toyota claims it can save up to $4,500 in fuel costs over five years. Math majors — do your calculations to see if it makes sense. If your reason is to preserve the climate, then it’s definitely worth it.

The electric start is quiet, and it takes off smoothly with no lag. Its 355-volt battery provides 215 horsepower for instantaneous torque.

The center console is handy. It’s easy to put your phone in the wireless charger and shut the lid. That way you won’t spill your overflowing latte after hitting the caffeinated drive-thru. 

The top mounted multi-information display is located behind the steering wheel, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road. The steering wheel column seemed long, obscuring the display view. It could be because the seat is forward due to this driver’s short legs.

A motion-activated lift gate is hands-free and reveals a roomy trunk. Toyota compares this model to their RAV4. My daughter’s RAV4 seems a bit larger than the bZ, but maybe because she’s so adept at cramming all her gear, moving from dorm rooms to apartments over the years.

Toyota Safety Sense is standard with pedestrian detection, lane departure and much more. A heating element in the lower dash is a bonus, as it warms the front passenger’s legs. If your passenger often complains about cold feet, this might be a game-changer in the winter time. 

For short trips, saving the environment — or even if you want to hang out at the truck stop — the Toyota bZX4 provides a reliable, gas-free ride. ♦

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Summer Stir - July 2024