Toyota and Lexus embrace the electric vehicle revolution
Toyota recently grabbed the attention of journalists during their visit to the Mobility Show by showcasing a fascinating array of ground-breaking technologies designed to revolutionise the electric vehicle (EV) experience. In a whimsical twist, the Japanese automaker's engineers took inspiration from the excitement of Halloween. They decided to dress up their Toyota and Lexus electric vehicles in unconventional ways, creating a captivating spectacle that piqued the curiosity of those on both sides of the Pacific.
One of the standout demonstrations involved the development of sophisticated software that could, with a simple command, transform the performance characteristics of a Lexus RZ to mimic a variety of distinct vehicles.
This digital magic allowed the RZ to emulate the power and demeanour of a rugged Toyota Tundra, the compact practicality of a Japanese "kei car," and even the high-speed prowess of a Lexus LFA supercar. This remarkable engineering feat showcased EV technology's versatility, providing drivers with a taste of different driving experiences at their fingertips.
But the innovation continued. Toyota's engineers also delved into the realm of simulated manual transmission experiences. They equipped an electric vehicle, the Lexus UX 300e, with a faux manual gearbox, a clutch, a tachometer, and a six-speed shifter. What made this even more intriguing was that these components were not mechanically connected to anything but relied on sensors. Nonetheless, with a button, the modified UX 300e drivers could engage in "rowing their gears," complete with realistic shifting sensations and even the possibility of stalling out their non-existent engine. This unconventional approach harked back to the era of traditional manual transmissions, offering a nostalgic twist in the world of EVs.
When asked about the motivation behind these peculiar experiments, Toyota's official answer was "to make driving an EV more fun." This response might seem surprising given the inherent performance advantages of electric vehicles and the declining popularity of manual transmissions, especially in the U.S. However, a more accurate explanation might be "because it can." Toyota's commitment to pushing the boundaries of innovation and exploring uncharted territories in the EV landscape was evident in these endeavours.
During the Mobility Show, Toyota graciously invited journalists from various publications, including Automotive News, to experience these experimental technologies firsthand. Participants had the opportunity to take laps around one of the centre's oval test tracks, where they could switch between the various driving modes and experience the transformation of the Lexus RZ from one vehicle persona to another.
The technology behind these transformations was controlled by a 3D-printed, Hot Wheels-sized representation of the desired vehicle placed on a pad above the centre console, which the RZ could interpret through connected technology.
These captivating demonstrations were part of a broader showcase of Toyota's cutting-edge advancements in automotive technology. Among other innovations, the company also presented new steer-by-wire systems intended for future production vehicles, hinting at a future where traditional mechanical connections could be replaced by electronic precision.
Despite the excitement generated by these unconventional experiments, Toyota clarified that they had no immediate plans to incorporate these technologies into production vehicles. Nevertheless, their willingness to push the boundaries of EV technology and offer drivers a glimpse into different automotive eras was a testament to their commitment to innovation and a reminder that the future of transportation holds endless possibilities.