Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer at Lexus, in his latest interview: The 800-volt system is over, electric is the future.
The future is electric.
Toyota may have bet on hydrogen, but it knows which technology has won the passenger car race. Even if he doesn’t want to admit it often.
Watanabe says that for the automaker to realistically achieve carbon neutrality, the electric battery is the right solution.
Beyond electric cars.
We need to switch to renewable energy and the best source is electricity, instead of fossil fuels.
The key will be how efficiently we can manipulate and use electricity. And the challenge is how small the battery can be to achieve these goals.
Battery-electric cars are not a medium-term solution, according to Watanabe. It is the next step in the central role to achieve the future and the objectives of carbon neutrality.
Wantanabe says Toyota and Lexus have finished working on an 800-volt electrical architecture.
But the first electric Lexus to be sold, the 2023 RZ 450e, will not feature this electrical architecture or charging rate. The maximum charge rate of your 71.4 kWh battery will be 150 kW and it will charge and operate at approximately 400 volts.
The reason, according to Watanabe, is the relationship between battery capacity and charging. The executive explains that the larger batteries justify the electrical architecture and faster charge rates. In the case of Toyota and Lexus, this will be considered “on a case-by-case basis,” Watanabe said.
The tipping point will be around 100 kWh, according to Watanabe. From there, the charging speeds will have to be faster, and the electrical architecture will benefit from the 800 volts.
Fast charge rates.
Watanabe points out that higher charging power (above 150 kW) is expensive on both the vehicle hardware and infrastructure side.
The executive was quick to point out that different regions are at different stages of infrastructure development at the moment. The specific needs of each region will dictate much of what the automaker does.
CCS is the world standard, it’s quite practical, and CCS 150 (kw) seems to be the majority for the foreseeable future.
When asked what was possible in terms of wirelessly updating the software of the RZ, or other electric cars, via over-the-air updates, Watanabe replied: “at this time we are not trying to put any limitations or restrictions on what is possible via OTA“.
The executive went on to say that, for example, the control of electric motors, charging, support systems or new value-added services can be improved through OTA (over-the-air) technology.
Key to this is an upgradeable ECU and communication system that Lexus is working on. But like many other variables, Watanabe said much of that will be defined by the needs of each region.
Autonomous driving is a system that was first introduced on the Lexus RZ 450e. This system is a progressive step towards a self-sustaining future.
Watanabe said the idea of sitting behind the wheel and having it move on your own is “a bit awkward”. The steering wheel could connect or disconnect from what’s happening in the tires when it makes sense through steering-by-wire, but not through a traditional electric power steering system.
Values and experiences
Watanabe said much of what defines some automakers in the future will partly come down to experiences. A digital key via a smartphone (like the one some automakers like Hyundai and Tesla have started offering) is a stepping stone that can enable future services.
The executive speculated that delivery and charging services would pick you or the vehicle up and make sure the battery is pre-charged for you. This type of service would be based on the implementation of digital keys on smartphones and the use of a pre-planning application.
In November, Cooper Ericksen, vice president of product planning and strategy for Toyota Motor North America, said that while Toyota will make affordability and not range the focus of its electric vehicle game, Lexus could not follow the same path. . The executive pointed out that the goal for the luxury models is a range of between 650 and 800 km. This requires the use of much larger batteries with more cells, a higher carbon footprint per vehicle and a higher price.
The RZ 450e is neither of those, and Watanabe has emphasized efficiency and reducing the automaker’s carbon footprint while keeping costs down.
We’re getting mixed messages from Toyota and Lexus executives at a time when changes are afoot, and a range of 300-500km may not seem like enough.
Until Lexus can offer anything close to the 500-650km range offered by some rivals, or even more in some cases, Lexus will have to prove it can innovate as it always has.