Toyota bz4X


By Tim Saunders

Is it sensible to drive a large luxurious electric vehicle during a climate emergency? This is the question I ponder while behind the wheel of the Toyota bz4X.

As continuing frightening weather events such as boiling oceans and floods persist, the whole idea of the electric vehicle requiring so much energy to build and to charge seems increasingly nonsensical.

I have to keep reminding myself that the bz4X is a luxury vehicle and therefore drivers having spent over £45,000, demand a certain level of comfort. They want their driver’s seat to move forward automatically when they push the start button. They will enjoy using the cumbersome power boot lid, the electric windows, the air conditioning, the heated seats and steering wheel. But the point is that they are not in fact helping the environment by indulging in these luxuries. In my book, cars must be treated like an article or a work of art. “Cut the crap,” was a slightly more polite phrase coined by my news editor. Nothing more relevant here. Compromise is necessary if we are to reverse our dreadful impact on Mother Earth. Being blunt these luxuries are completely unnecessary and should be removed. Ah, but this is a top-of-the-range vehicle, I hear you reminding me. Point taken and I simply cannot see a market for a car like this any more no matter how it is powered. This obese car looks and feels like a larger Lexus. It’s bigger than most petrol and diesel vehicles I drive, which in this day and age, doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Inside, it’s pleasant enough but try as I might I can’t find a glovebox and I do like one of those. It’s comfortable enough while the boot is sizeable, easily swallowing a massive bag of rabbit pellets and eating hay. However, I also find the size of the wing mirrors are way too large and in fact obscure my vision when I look to my right.

I do believe that car manufacturers could make truly efficient vehicles if they wanted to, the technology is there. I see the way forward being small, lightweight vehicles that will travel four or five hundred miles on a full charge. Look back to the Sinclair C5 for inspiration.

Why do manufacturers feel it necessary to go large and luxurious? Bigger is not better. Reduce the size and remove anything unnecessary and I think there might be a vehicle worth considering. The environmentally conscious motorist will happily drive without environmentally unfriendly air conditioning, just give them a manually operated sunroof and wind up windows – nothing wrong with that, it helps use those oft forgotten muscles, too... They don’t need electrically adjustable and heated seats either. Neither do they need a heated steering wheel, they’ll happily wear gloves.

“You’re meant to get just over 300 miles from a full charge but it’s 88 per cent charged and you’ll need to leave about 40 per cent of that for the driver to collect it,” I’m told as bz4X is delivered. “I recommend driving it locally.”

This presents me with a conundrum. What car should I take on my weekend away to Dorset? Knoll House Hotel in Studland is 62.5 miles away from home, meaning that a return trip is 125 miles. I then find that some have only managed 190 miles from a fully charged bz4X. After a conflab with my wife, we agree we’ll take her 2002 plate Corsa because that way we can relax and not worry about whether we’ll make it home. (And I’m very glad I made this decision because the traffic is horrendous and we get lost on the way due to the sat nav insisting that we take a toll ferry and we don’t want to so we end up going via Wareham, all of which means that if we had taken the Toyota we wouldn’t have actually had a holiday…).

Up until earlier this year green warrior friends of my daughters had a couple of electric cars. They’ve sold them and bought hybrids. What does that tell you? There isn’t the infrastructure to support these vehicles and charging from home is even more expensive especially in a cost of living crisis.

This Toyota is not targeted at someone like me but instead a much older cash rich motorist with plenty of time on their hands to drive slowly and to queue to charge at one of those rare allegedly cheaper public charging points. (I didn’t spot any electric charging points in the Purbecks in Dorset so good luck with that).

I drive to Fareham and back, a total journey of 12.4 miles. As we start there is a range of 204 miles. When we return home it has dropped like a rock to 184 miles. The Nissan Leaf did just the same to me over three years ago. Why am I feeling that we haven’t advanced at all during this time? What’s more I have been travelling in 30mph zones for the entire time so I am shocked at this dreadful performance. I’m very glad I did make this short journey because it has confirmed that I cannot venture very far from home in it without fretting about recharging, which I won’t because I haven’t got the time. It’s comfortable enough to drive and the seats are supportive but I find the all black interior quite dull – it really could benefit from a glass roof. I find the interior quite clinical really, I can’t say there’s any character to it. So this unnervingly silent vehicle (apart from the irritating bleeps that keep going off when I’m driving) is okay for the school run and any other local trips, no more than twenty or thirty miles away but that’s all really. For me it is too large a vehicle and needs to be reduced in size; it’s like a reflection of society...

Frustrated I Google ‘water powered car’ and see that in 2022 the MH2 Matador hydrogen powered car was constructed in Slovakia. Then I find groundbreaking news of Toyota’s new hydrogen powered pick-up that will be made in the UK. Hallelujah! That’s more like it, that’s the future in my mind, not electric. Hydrogen, a naturally occurring gas that is also the most abundant element in the universe, is the way forward because it only emits water when it is burned. I hear you say, "Bit what about rising water levels and flooding?" Well, perhaps such vehicles might have to be limited or driven just in the summer when there are droughts but in my mind they are far better than electric. Toyota confirms how user-friendly hydrogen is too. “Hydrogen-powered vehicles don't need charging like an electric vehicle. You refuel them with hydrogen gas, pumped in the same safe and convenient way you would a conventional petrol or diesel car. Filling up takes the same amount of time too, between three and five minutes for a full tank.” The government should be investing in hydrogen stations not electric charging points. As of March 2023 there were 15 hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK compared to over 48,000 public electric charging points and 8,365 petrol stations.

But this isn’t a problem because Honda for instance has developed a home hydrogen refuelling system that can also power a home. Now that’s fantastic. Can’t wait until this is affordable and becomes available in the UK. That’s the future.

Facts at a glance
Price £46,110 approx
Power 204bhp
0 to 60mph 7.3secs
Range 317 miles claimed (but you’ll never achieve this unless you drive at 30mph all the way!)
Top speed 100mph (you wouldn’t want to do it because the range will plummet to nothing)



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