Toyota unveils the first electric vehicle since the RAV4 EV in 2014

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota, the top-selling automaker in the United States, is launching its first all-electric vehicle in eight years.

The company unveiled the battery-powered bZ4X small SUV on Tuesday, which starts at $42,000 and can travel up to 406 kilometers per charge.

The bZ4X, which will be sold globally, adds to the 38 electric vehicle models currently on sale in the United States, with more than 120 expected by 2025.

While it doesn’t have breakthrough range or performance for an electric vehicle, the bZ4X is an important entry because it comes from a trusted brand that will convince some buyers to switch from internal combustion engines, said Stephanie Brinley , Principal Analyst for S&P Global Mobility.

“You have buyers who are interested in checking this out but may not be willing to try a new brand or leave (Toyota) to go to Chevrolet or Ford,” Brinley said. “As we move to a market more dominated by electric vehicles, the answer is really to convince ICE (internal combustion engine) owners to try something new.”

The bZ4X looks and feels slightly longer, lower and wider than Toyota’s RAV4, the top-selling non-pickup vehicle in the United States. It’s Toyota’s first electric vehicle since 2014, when it last sold an electric version of the RAV4.

Like most electric vehicles, it is fast compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. The all-wheel-drive version can go from zero to 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) in as little as 6.5 seconds, Toyota says.

Sales will begin in states that have zero-emission vehicle requirements and then expand to the rest of the United States, Toyota said. The bZ4X will be on display at the New York International Auto Show, where press days begin this week. The fair is open to the public from April 15 to 24.

Toyota announces plans to offer 15 electric vehicles by 2025, including seven with the bZ brand, which stands for “Beyond Zero”.

When the bZ4X hits US showrooms in May, owners will likely have to scramble to get the $7,500 federal tax credit that would make it more affordable. The automaker expects that sometime before the end of June it will hit a cap of 200,000 vehicles on credits.

After reaching the cap, the credits will be phased out over the next year, reaching zero as Tesla and General Motors have already done.

Toyota has hit the ceiling largely by selling plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicles such as the RAV4 Prime, which can travel 42 miles on electric power before switching to a hybrid system that uses an internal combustion engine.

Automakers sold nearly 4.6 million electric vehicles worldwide last year. LMC Automotive, an industry consultancy, expects that figure to rise to nearly 7 million this year and more than 15 million by 2025. Yet that will only represent around 15% of global vehicle sales.

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