The results of the latest tests are surprising, to say the least. The European-spec AWD variant of the bZ4X/Solterra appears to charge fast – much faster than the American one. However, its range disappoints.
Toyota bZ4X. Photo taken in the United States. Photo: Gold Pony
This month, some interesting tests of the all-electric Toyota bZ4X appeared in the Norwegian media. One of them was published by Motor.no. They had driven the bZ4X before, during a media event in Copenhagen in June – and rated it 77/100, not a bad result – but now they got to test it in Norway.
The Japanese SUV did not have the easiest start. In late April, there were reports from the U.S. about slow charging times. On top of that, there was an announcement, by Toyota, that charging might slow down significantly in below-freezing temperatures. In both cases, it was the U.S. specification AWD variant that was causing trouble.
Then came the much-publicized wheel bolts issue, and a stop-sale order. Because of this delay, these Norwegian tests are not done in the middle of the Norwegian summer; they are done in November.
It looks like bad news for Toyota: their EV is getting tested in temperatures it seemingly does not like – and might not make a good first impression in one of the world’s most important EV markets. And first impressions are important.
Well, the vehicle’s range in cold temperatures is a disappointment, at least when compared to the official figures. In this respect, Motor.no‘s results are not that different from those reported by Elbil24, which did a full range test and criticized Toyota not just for the low range of their vehicle, but also for – among other things – not being straightforward about its battery capacity. Elbil24 says the net capacity is 60-62 kWh.
The charging speeds, on the other hand, seem to be solid. Sure, not as good as those offered by some of the Korean competitors, but still not bad for an electric vehicle debuting in 2022.
So, exactly how fast does it charge?
This time, two vehicles were tested by motor.no: the AWD variant of the Toyota and the AWD variant (the only variant) of its Subaru twin. Both of them European-spec.
The U.S.-spec AWD variant is supposed to charge at 100 kW tops. But in the Norwegian test, both vehicles reported peak charging speeds above 100 kW.
Probably because of a different cell supplier. In the United States, the AWD and FWD variants differ in battery capacity – and in the AWD variant, the cells come from the Chinese company CATL, not from Panasonic. In Europe, the official battery capacity is the same in AWD and FWD variants, and presumably both of them use cells from the same supplier, Panasonic.
November temperatures didn’t necessarily work against the Toyota when it comes to charging speeds. First, the temperatures during the test were not exactly frigid: 8 to 5 degrees Celsius, that’s 46 to 41 Fahrenheit. And second, charging did not start with a cold battery: both vehicles did a lot of driving (so the battery had plenty of time to warm up) before they were plugged in.
So here are the measured charging times:
• Subaru: 6% to 80% in 38 minutes
• Toyota: 6% to 80% in 36 minutes
Better than the U.S.-spec AWD model – and not much different from the FWD variant.
Trying to estimate the range
Keep in mind that Motor.no didn’t do a true range test.
For that, you would need to charge to 100% and drive until reaching 0%. And Elbil24 did exactly that (driving until the vehicle reported zero range, not until it actually stopped running); the result was 307 km (191 mi) during the first run, 318 km (198 mi) during the second run.
Back to Motor.no’s test. As mentioned, the temperatures during the test were 8 to 5 degrees Celsius (46 to 41 Fahrenheit). HVAC was on and set to 20 °C (68 °F).
Neither of the two vehicles displays the battery state of charge on the dashboard – only the estimated range. If you want to know the state of charge, you need to read it in an app. And here’s the thing: in the case of the Toyota, the app did not work – it could not connect to the vehicle at all, so we don’t know what the battery percentage was at the beginning of the test (apparently it started working later on, otherwise how would the journalists know that charging started at 6% and ended at 80%?).
Let’s focus on the Subaru then. The app reported 54% at the beginning of the test. 149 kilometers (93 mi) later, the app reported 6%.
That would indicate a total range of 310 km (192 mi).
But at the same time, the energy consumption displayed on the vehicle’s screen was 248 Wh/km or 399 Wh/mi. That would indicate a total range of 288 km (179 miles) but that’s assuming the usable battery capacity is 71.4 kWh, while Elbil24’s tests indicate that the usable capacity is lower.
Maybe the energy consumption displayed on the screen is simply wrong.
No matter whether the actual range is 310 km (192 mi) or less than that, it is kind of low. Even on 20-inch wheels and winter tires – and that’s what the test vehicle was equipped with – the Solterra’s range should be 416 km (258 mi), according to Subaru (WLTP cycle, and not taking cold weather into account).
And was the vehicle’s low range caused by cabin heating being on? The vehicle’s range estimator wants you to think so – the estimated range dropped a lot (quite a lot, and it wasn’t freezing outside) the moment HVAC was turned on. But no complete range test was done with HVAC off – so at the moment it’s impossible to tell whether the range with HVAC off would be as good as the range estimator indicated.
And to complicate things further…
The results obtained for the Toyota are clouding the picture even more. As a reminder, the battery state of charge could not be read – we’re going on energy consumption readouts only.
The Toyota (AWD and on winter tires) was equipped with 18-inch wheels. That should have resulted in lower energy consumption than in the Subaru.
The Toyota was even more power hungry than the Subaru, at 272 Wh/km or 438 Wh/mi. At least that’s what was displayed on the vehicle’s screen. One detail that might matter, the Toyota apparently spent more time driving on the highway (in the final phase of the test or overall?) than the Subaru, and its battery got warmer. But it’s a Norwegian highway, with low speed limits anyway.
But then the Toyota was retested. Different, and longer, route. HVAC set to a temperature almost the same as before. This time, the outside temperature was somewhere between 11 and 14 °C (52–57 °F). The reported energy consumption was 190 Wh/km or 306 Wh/mi. Much lower than before.
A lot of data, and hard to reach any definitive conclusions. More study recommended.