Lexus has confirmed that it will make a long-awaited transition into fully electric propulsion with a small EV that is set to be revealed at the 2019 Tokyo motor show in concept form.
The as-yet-unnamed concept is said to take the form of a tall, boxy and city-friendly hatchback that wears a more futuristic design than any model in the brand’s 2019 line-up. Inspiration is expected to be taken from the brand's 2015 LF-SA concept (pictured above), albeit updated with more production intent.
“We feel that our future could resemble this design,” Lexus vice-president Koji Sato told our sister publication Autocar UK.
The interior of the new model will be characterised by next-gen infotainment technology displayed on a pair of screens positioned on either side of the steering wheel.
Although technical details and the production date for the first Lexus EV are still unknown, Sato acknowledged the need to create a product that’s competitive and compelling. The firm is investing a significant amount of money into the development of the powertrain technology it needs in order to honour its pledge of offering an electrified variant of every car it sells by 2025.
Engineers are designing a platform that will underpin future Lexus EVs and will likely be shared with Lexus’ parent company Toyota. The two brands jointly plan to launch 10 electric models by 2025. Lexus has also placed a big research focus on in-wheel electric motors, although Sato conceded it will take years to make the technology a reality.
“We expect four wheels operating independently will offer greater agility, stability and excitement,” he said. “We will continue to pursue this exciting opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Lexus design boss Koichi Suga is defining the design of a production Lexus EV. The final design hasn’t yet been signed off by Toyota president Akio Toyoda, but Suga did tell us that Lexus’ signature the spindle grille won’t disappear completely with EVs.
Lexus also has plans for other alternatives to the petrol engine, including plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. Sato hailed the company’s expertise in hybrid technology as a major advantage.
“The hybrid technology is our core. Our expertise in electrical control technology and battery technology can be used for other types of alternative powertrains, even fuel cells,” he said.
However, the widespread availability of a fuel-cell-powered Lexus is strongly linked to the growth of the infrastructure.
Sato stressed Lexus can’t solve that problem alone, but he emphasised his team is “never giving up on this technology”. Sato also claimed Lexus needs an entry-level car to lure buyers moving up from non-luxury brands into showrooms. The CT – ditched in the US but still on sale in Europe – is well overdue a replacement, but the brand is said to be weighing up sales of the new UX crossover to see when or if a new version is needed.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Sato emphasised Lexus is not currently planning a follow-up to the limited-edition, V10-powered LFA, released in 2010.
“I love it but we need your help. We need strong requests for a new LFA from the media. This can help us proceed,” Sato said.