Complete 800-volt system, electrical future

Lexus and Toyota can’t sleep on EV wheels after all. The automaker, known for bidding its time and adopting a cautious long-game approach to anything that looks big, seems to be applying the same mentality here.

In an interview with Lexus Chief Engineer Takashi Watanabe on the prototype drive of the 2023 Lexus RZ 450e in Barcelona, ​​Spain, Green Car Report Learned about automaker’s thinking about electrical architecture, charging rates and the future of electricity.

Interview with Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer of Lexus

Interview with Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer of Lexus

The future is electric.

Toyota Hydrogen may be betting on the horse, but the passenger car race knows which pony has won. Even if it often does not want to admit.

Watanabe says that for the automaker to hit carbon neutrality realistically, battery electric is the right solution.

But it only goes beyond the electric car. According to Watanabe, we need to move towards renewable energy, and the best source of energy instead of fossil fuels is electricity. The key will be how efficiently we use electricity. And the challenge is “how small a battery we can carry to achieve these goals,” Watanabe said.

According to Watanabe, battery electric cars are not an intermediate solution. This is the next step in the future and the central role in achieving the carbon neutral goal.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e

2023 Lexus RZ 450e

Going to 800 volts

When asked if Toyota and Lexus have completed an 800-volt electrical architecture, Wantanabe quickly answers: “Yes.”

But the first electric Lexus to be sold in the United States, the 2023 RZ 450e, will not feature such electrical architecture or charge rate. The maximum charge rate of its 71.4-kwh battery pack will be 150 kw and it is charged and runs at around 400 volts.

Because, according to Watanabe, the relationship between battery power and charging. Executive factors are that large battery packs ensure fast electrical architecture and charge rate. For Toyota and Lexus, this will be seen on a “case-by-case basis,” Watanabe said.

The breakover point will be about 100-kwh, according to Watanabe. That’s where the charging rate has to be fast and the electrical architecture will benefit from 800 volts.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e

2023 Lexus RZ 450e

Fast charging rate

Watanabe notes that high charge power (above the 150 kW mark) is costly, both in terms of the vehicle’s hardware and the equation infrastructure.

The executive was quick to point out that different regions are at different points in infrastructural development at this time. Region-specific needs will dictate much of what the automaker does. While the US (slowly) is starting to roll out 350 kw fast-charging stations, the main rate for fast charging at this time is 150 kw.

“CCS is a global standard, it’s something that is convenient, and CCS 150 (kilowatts) looks like it will be the majority for the foreseeable future,” Watanabe said, referring to the globalized charging rates that appear outside the US and in the market. Complete

Over-the-air updates

Asked about the possibility of upgrading RZ, or other electric vehicles through over-the-air updates, Watanabe said, “Right now we are not trying to impose any restrictions on what is possible through OTA.”

The executive said in detail that such as electric motor control, charging, supporting systems or new pricing services can all be improved using OTA technology.

The key is an updated ECU system and communication system that works to keep Lexus together. But like many other variables, Watanabe says much of it will be defined by the needs of each region.

Earlier, Watanabe noted that while the U.S. market sees the 200-mile range as low, it is seen as more than a wide range in a market like China.

Lexus steer-by-wire system

Lexus steer-by-wire system

Autonomous driving

Steer-by-wire, a system that was first introduced with the Lexus RZ 450e (although it will not be an alternative to a yoke in the United States for the first model year). This system is a growing step towards an autonomous future.

The idea of ​​just sitting behind the steering wheel and moving the wheel itself, Watanabe said, was “a little awkward.” The steering wheel (or yoke) may actually be attached or disconnected from what is happening to the tire when it is understood by the steer-by-wire, but not by a conventional electric power steering system.

Values ​​and experience

Watanabe says much of what some automakers define in front of them will come down to partial experience. A digital key via a smartphone (as some automakers, including Hyundai and Tesla have started offering) is a step that could enable future services.

The executive provides theories about delivery and charging services that will come to meet you or the vehicle and ensure that the battery is pre-charged for you. Such services will depend on using an app to implement and pre-plan the smartphone digital key.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e

2023 Lexus RZ 450e

But what about the range?

In November, Cooper Ericsson, Toyota Motor’s VP of North American Product Planning and Strategy GCR While Toyota will make it possible and its EV will not be at the center of the game, Lexus may not take the same path. The executive noted that the 400 to 500 mile range is the goal of the luxury model. It requires a lot of large batteries with a lot of cells, heavy carbon footprint per car and high sticker price.

The RZ 450e is none of these things, and Watanabe emphasizes efficiency and reduces the automaker’s carbon footprint in line with cost.

We are receiving mixed messages from Toyota and Lexus executives at a time when a change is taking place and the —200 to 230 mile range in the US is not only competitive with the latest crop of electric vehicles.

Unless Lexus can deliver something like the 300- to 400-mile range that some luxury competitors offer – even more in some cases – Lexus needs to show that it can innovate in the way it always has: creating a very, very smooth ownership experience.

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