Toyota Supra, Yars, Gazoo Racing, EV sports car, future models

Toyota’s chairman has test driven an electric GR prototype and says the brand’s EVs will feel like smash-hit ICE cars.

Toyota Gazoo Racing has begun testing its first battery-powered prototype – and company chairman Akio Toyoda is personally involved in development work to ensure it meets expectations, our sister publication Autocar UK reveals.

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Toyota Gazoo Racing’s BEV 

Speaking during the recent Le Mans 24 Hours, company chairman Akio Toyoda revealed that his baseline expectations for the car are that it must be at least as good to drive as current combustion-engined models, which include the GR86, GR Supra, GR Yaris and GR Corolla.

Toyoda said: “The starting point is not what powertrain the car has, but how fun it is to drive regardless of that powertrain. I actually had the opportunity to test drive a BEV GR we are working on recently. I don’t know if that car will make it onto the market yet, but the first priority of making these kinds of cars is that they need to be fun to drive, no matter what powertrain they use.”

Consequently, Toyoda also suggested that the car will be developed to have many characteristics of combustion-engined cars, including having a clutch, gearbox and even making a sound to mimic engine noises.

Toyota Gazoo Racing BEV to mimic an ICE car 

“The biggest difference to other BEVs we are developing is that, when you are in the GR BEV, you can actually hear the engine noises, even if you can’t smell gasoline,” said Toyoda. “There is also a manual transmission and also a clutch. If you put someone in the car and asked them to drive it and guess the powertrain, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

Toyoda’s reference to the manual gearbox adds credence to suggestions the GR model could be co-developed with a Lexus equivalent, as last year the upmarket firm revealed early details of a manual transmission project it was working on for future BEVs.

The firm’s chief engineer, Takashi Watanabe, outlined that the gearstick and clutch wouldn’t be connected directly to the motor, but they would simulate shifts by adjusting the torque settings of the electric motor. He also suggested that it could be programmed to allow the car to roll back on a hill, or even potentially emulate a stall, to ensure poor driving is punished.

Underlining the prototype nature of the GR test car, and how its development showcases the company’s willingness to take on new ideas, Toyoda said: “Whether it makes it to the market or not, what the company is trying to do is explore the idea of what it is that we shouldn’t lose in a car even if it becomes BEV.

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