Subaru is known for safety and reliability without sacrificing cost. Its all-wheel drive and solid engineering make it a favorite among drivers who want a car that will last for years, especially if they plan to drive off-road. Toyota is also known for reliability and friendliness to an active lifestyle. But Toyota vehicles have tended to be a little more affordable than those of their frequent partner.
Both brands are well-respected for their SUVs: in the case of Toyota, for the RAV4 and the Highlander; in the case of Subaru, for the Outback and the Forester. The functionality, space, and power of SUVs bring the strengths of Subaru and Toyota to new levels. With a Forester or a RAV4, you can be comfortable while travelling across the country or through mountains. Add snow tires and you’re ready to rough it. There’s a reason they’re often a top-ten seller in the United States.
But SUVs are also notorious gas hogs. In fact, the average SUV gets 20 miles to 25 miles per gallon, whereas sedans usually get closer to 40 miles per gallon. That’s not just a drain on your wallet, it’s bad for the environment.
Gas-powered vehicles are the biggest source of carbon emissions in the United States, and nearly half of those emissions come from personal vehicles. Although it is wrong to place the burden for reducing carbon emissions entirely on the shoulders of the consumer—especially considering that only 100 corporations are responsible for 71 percent of all global emissions)—every little bit helps. Moreover, electric vehicles are the future, and the world is gradually moving towards them. You may as well get ahead of the game.
This is why I’m excited to introduce the electric vehicle team-up that so many of us have been waiting for: the Subaru-Toyota all-electric SUV! Although these car makers have teamed up to make a hybrid, these new vehicles are the first all-electric SUVs to be created by either.
The respective models of the two companies share the same platform, which means that they share much of the underlying technology. Although the models are similar with respect to features like size and headlights, some differences are also apparent. Subaru is highlighting its famous all-wheel drive and engineering. Toyota is highlighting the electric features. The names also differ in style. Toyota calls its vehicle the bZ4X; Subaru calls its own the Solterra.
Toyota regards its model as part of a Beyond Zero plan (from which the “bZ” of bZ4X is derived). The idea is to go beyond carbon neutrality to provide a net positive for the environment. How exactly this would work has not been articulated, suggesting that the goal as stated is probably an exaggeration by Toyota’s marketing department.
At the moment, there’s more information available about the bZ4X than about the Solterra. But given the shared platform, we can offer some informed guesses about the Solera based on what we know about the bZ4X.
We do know about the size. According to Green Car Reports, the Solterra is about the same size as the Forester, but lower and sleeker. No offense to Green Car Reports, but the description makes it sounds as if the Solterra is more like an Outback than a Forester. As for the bZ4X, it looks a lot like the RAV4.
We also know that the bZ4X will have more interior space than a comparable gas-powered vehicle, since an electric vehicle requires less machinery under the hood. The Solterra may share this quality, given how roomy Subarus already are. On the other hand, Subaru’s focus on engineering and capability may outweigh the desire for more space.
The bZ4X has announced some nifty ways to increase the capacity of its battery. The method that is easiest to understand involves solar cells that drip power to the battery. The “sol” in “Solterra” means “sun,” so we can expect the Solterra to have the same feature.
With the power train of the Solterra confirmed to be Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive, the Solterra should handle as well in snow and rough conditions as the Forester does.
We don’t yet know the capacity of the Solterra battery. In the current market, a range of at least 250 miles is necessary to be competitive. But since Subaru loves to push the envelope and it markets to travelers and nature lovers, the battery will probably take the driver further than that.
Both vehicles should be available in the United States in 2022. We’re hoping to get further confirmed information about them at some point this summer. Until then, SUV fans will just have make the best educated guesses we can.