After launching the bZ4X SUV, Toyota is now preparing to release the second dedicated EV in its "Beyond Zero" (bZ) series of battery electric vehicles.
Fresh details have emerged about the electric sedan, which will be named Toyota bZ3. Reuters reports that Toyota plans to start production and sales of the compact electric sedan by the end of this year in China. For starters, the bZ3 will be available exclusively in the world's largest car (and EV) market.
The electric vehicle will be powered by Blade batteries supplied by BYD as part of an ongoing collaboration with the Chinese company, according to three people close to the Japanese carmaker. The same sources said Toyota had planned to unveil the bZ3 at the Beijing Auto Show in April, but it postponed the debut after the event got canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The insiders added that the bZ3, previewed by the bZ SDN Concept, is roughly the same size as a Toyota Corolla but has a bigger back seat. So far, the Japanese automaker has struggled to develop a smaller EV that does not compromise on comfort, but it looks like BYD's Blade battery tech has given Toyota the breakthrough it needed.
Gallery: Toyota bZ3
The Toyota bZ3's compact sedan configuration has become feasible thanks to the thinner lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) Blade technology. A typical Blade pack is about 3.9 inches (99 millimeters) thick when the modules are laid flat on the floor, making it roughly 2 inches (51 millimeters) thinner than other lithium-ion packs.
The flatter battery pack allows for a more efficient interior packaging, offering sufficient interior space without the need to raise the roof (which is why many EVs on the market today are taller crossovers). According to an earlier regulatory filing from China's Ministry of Technology and Information Technology (MIIT), the bZ3 features BYD-supplied electric motors, with one version delivering 135 kilowatts (181 horsepower) of peak power and the other 180 kilowatts (241 horsepower).
The bZ3's pricing remains unknown for now, but one source said it would likely sell for around $28,000 in China, making it nearly 30 percent more affordable than an entry-level Tesla Model 3. Tesla's smallest model is about the same size as the bZ3, which measures 4,725 millimeters (186 inches) in length, 1,835 mm (72.2 in) in width and 1,475 mm (58 in) in height, with a wheelbase of 2,880 mm (113.4 in).
The small electric sedan will be built in Tianjin on the same assembly line as the bZ4X SUV, two sources said, adding that annual production will be around 30,000 units. The factory is jointly operated by Toyota and its joint venture partner, FAW Group. The Japanese carmaker does not plan to build the bZ3 with GAC Motor, its second joint venture partner in China, the sources said.
Toyota has not responded to Reuters' requests for comments.