Americans' affinity for large SUVs seems unbreakable. Nearly half of the 25 best-selling passenger cars in the U.S. last year were SUVs. However, as the auto industry pivots towards electric vehicles, Toyota, the second-bestselling automaker in the U.S. behind General Motors in 2023, still doesn't offer an electric family SUV with space for seven passengers. Rivian, Kia, Mercedes and Tesla have already beaten Toyota in this race. But things are expected to turn around next year.

Currently, Toyota offers only one electric car in the U.S., the bZ4x crossover. There's also the Lexus RZ450e and the Subaru Solterra, but they’re essentially the same as the bZ4x underneath, with different clothes. 

As of mid-2024, the automaker has two three-row electric SUVs in the pipeline. One is a ground-up model tailored for the U.S. market rumored as the Toyota bZ5x. The other is the successor to the current gas-powered Highlander which some reports suggest may evolve into an EV-only nameplate.

But details about the Highlander EV are scarce. The possibility of Toyota streamlining the two projects into one cannot be ruled out. So we are focusing on the so-called bZ5x in this story. (To be clear, these names could change in the future.) 

Here's what we know so far.

Toyota Three-Row Electric SUV Design

In 2021, the Japanese automaker showcased no less than 15 futuristic EV concepts as part of its “beyond zero” offensive. This included a Toyota pickup truck, a Lexus supercar and also what Toyota called a “bZ large SUV,” among many other concepts.

Gallery: Toyota and Lexus preview 15 EVs

The bZ large SUV looks like a grown-up, more mature version of the bZ4x. The concept has a dual-tone paint scheme, with the body in silver and the roof and hood in black. Just like the bZ4x, it has a slim bar of chrome connecting the headlamps. It also has a slender greenhouse and what looks like wraparound rear taillamps—although we don’t have a clear rear angle view of the concept so we can’t say for sure.

This design would naturally evolve in the production versions, but these elements are the consistent theme in the bZ range of Toyota and Lexus concepts.

Battery And Powertrain Details

It could be a while before official details surface. But for the size and class of this vehicle, a dual-motor all-wheel-drive configuration should be standard.

We also know that Toyota has been working on a bunch of different battery programs. But there’s little information out there on how far these programs have come.

Toyota bZ large SUV

Toyota said last year that three of those programs involve new liquid electrolyte technologies and one with solid-state batteries. (An electrolyte is a solution inside a battery that allows the transfer of charge-carrying particles between the positive and negative terminals)

The automaker has said it was working on improving charging speeds, achieving higher energy density compared to today’s batteries and reducing production costs. It also made some bold claims, that future models would deliver between 497 and 620 miles of range.

Would these new generation batteries make it to the three-row electric SUV? Your guess is as good as mine.

Where Will The Toyota Family SUV Be Made?

Toyota is pouring billions of dollars into manufacturing EVs and producing batteries locally in the U.S. It announced in June last year that the three-row electric SUV would be manufactured at an expanded facility at the brand’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant.

The Japanese automaker is also investing some 13.9 billion dollars towards battery production lines in North Carolina. This investment would support batteries for BEVs, PHEVs and conventional hybrids. Toyota has said that this facility is on track to be the "epicenter of lithium-ion battery production in North America."

An equivalent Subaru model will also be made in Kentucky, Automotive News reported last year. Moreover, similar Lexus models also seem to be in the pipeline. Lexus has already trademarked the TZ450e and 550e nameplates with the European Union Intellectual Property Office.

Toyota bZ5x Price And Availability

We don’t expect the future Toyota model to come cheap. It would be positioned above the bZ4x, which currently starts at approximately $43,000. The range-topping trim costs about $47,000. The Toyota family SUV should compete with the Kia EV9, which is priced between $55,000-$74,000. Production is expected to begin sometime in 2025 or 2026.

To shed its "laggard in the EV race" reputation—earned due to delayed EV plans and infamous anti-climate lobbying—Toyota desperately needs its upcoming EV to succeed. It’s the brand’s opportunity to silence critics and prove that it’s truly committed to decarbonizing its fleet.

Contact the author: suvrat.kothari@insideevs.com

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