Toyota rolls out battery electric car in Japan for lease only

Toyota bZ4X BEV

Toyota Motor has rolled out its first battery electric car — bZ4X BEV — in Japan for lease only, a strategy the automaker says will help ease driver concerns about battery life and resale value.

Gasoline-electric hybrid models remain far more popular in Toyota’s home market than electric vehicles (EVs), which accounted for just 1 percent of the passenger cars sold in Japan last year, according to industry data. The EV market is growing fast and foreign automakers including Tesla are making visible inroads on the streets of cities such as Tokyo, Reuters news report said.

Bundling insurance, repair costs and a battery warranty into the deal, Toyota will lease the bZ4X sport utility vehicles (SUV) at the equivalent of $39,000 for the first four years. Cancelling in the first 48 months will mean an additional fee.

Toyota in a news statement said the bZ4X offers superior power efficiency performance (128 Wh/km) and sufficient cruising range for practical driving (559 km). In addition, development was conducted with a target of achieving a world-leading battery capacity retention ratio (90 percent after 10 years).

In Japan, Toyota will commence the first phase by accepting applications for the first 3,000 units on May 12 and anticipates a second phase of applications in early autumn. A total of 5,000 units for production and sales are planned for the first year.

Toyota plans to install rapid chargers at all dealers in Japan by 2025, with initial plans to install rapid chargers mainly in urban areas where demand is high for BEVs.

Toyota could risk losing market share by focusing on a model of leasing rather than purchasing, said CLSA analyst Christopher Richter.

Toyota said in December it would commit 8 trillion yen ($62 billion) to electrify its cars by 2030.

Toyota aims to lease 5,000 of the SUVs in the current financial year – around the same amount of EVs that analysts estimate Tesla sold in Japan last year.

The automaker plans to start selling the bZ4X in other markets later this year, and pre-orders have already started in some European countries.

Toyota pioneered the hybrid more than two decades ago and retains big ambitions for both hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles, even as it is investing more to boost its battery EV line-up.

Rival Nissan Motor pioneered mass-market EVs with the Leaf in 2010 but will launch its second battery EV model, the Ariya SUV, also on Thursday. The Ariya will be sold for the equivalent of $41,500, not including a government subsidy.

Honda Motor in April laid out a target to roll out 30 electric vehicle models globally by 2030.