This year’s Tokyo auto show just got underway in Japan, and in keeping with the zeitgeist, there are plenty of new electric vehicles at the show. However, like the annual Frankfurt auto show, seeing some of the debuts can be frustrating from a US perspective.
For example, Mazda has a cool new battery EV—with suicide doors—but like the cute Honda E there are no plans to bring it to America. But one Japanese brand that will bring us a BEV is Lexus. It plans to bring the as-yet-unseen electric car to the US and China in 2020, although everyone has to wait until November to actually see what it looks like.
In the meantime, the company has the LF-30 concept to keep us guessing. Before anyone gets ahead of themselves, this is absolutely not what a production Lexus EV will look like next year. The clue is in the name—”30″ refers to the year 2030, so this really is one of those corporate flights of fancy that still requires an enabling technology or two to be perfected first.
The LF-30 uses individual hub motors mounted in each wheel, which, it says, allow the design to “visually express the energy created by the wheels set at the corners of the vehicle body streaming toward the vehicle cabin and past the driver to directly flow onto the road surface.” With no traditional hood upon which to mount its Cylon-shaped grille (officially known as the “spindle”), the spindle shape shows up all over the place—an angle here in the window line, a crease there in an air intake.
The double-wide gullwing doors provide plenty of access to the cabin. It’s a conceit that’s largely exclusive to concept cars; even Elon Musk wasn’t bold enough to try to make the Model X’s party trick passenger portals do double duty and work for both front and back seats. The LF-30’s interior tells us that this is a car that is meant both to be driven by a human as well as autonomously. The driver is ensconced, pod-like, by a center console and door treatments that stand out in a silver trim. There’s a wraparound display as well as augmented reality.
When being driven autonomously, the front passenger seat might be the better spot. This, Lexus says, echos a first-class seat on an airliner, although it’s unlikely that anyone will come by mid-trip and offer you champagne and finger sandwiches. There’s an artificial muscle technology built in that allows the rear seats to mold their shape to suit the occupants—and did we mention that the glass roof is also an augmented reality display?
Back on Earth Prime, Lexus says that by 2025, it will have electrified versions of all its models, including its first PHEV and an all-new BEV platform “early in the coming decade.” I am curious to see how many of LC-30’s ideas manage to remain in favor that long.