This month Lexus introduced their long-awaited new RZ 450e, the brand's very first fully electric vehicle, to its fleet. The new model is a sleek offering, with dynamic lines, a minimized look overall (the contentious spindle body design detail, for example, has been noticeably pared down), and climate-conscious details such as the exclusion of interior wood and leather details. And of course, the model addresses the large issue of range within EVs, and how it can be a large barrier to purchase. This introductory product from Lexus seems to be an exploration from the brand of the question, how can we create a vehicle that promises the climate consciousness of an EV while delivering on efficiency and luxury experience?
Lexus's new RZ 450e, the first all-electric vehicle offered by the brand (Image credit: Lexus)
"When we set out to develop this vehicle, we didn't want it to just be an electric vehicle, we wanted it to be an electrified Lexus," said Greg Kitzens, General Manager of Lexus Marketing. As such, while many features of the Lexus address energy-efficiency, the main goal of all amenities is customer comfort, like any other Lexus vehicle.
The RZ 450e has three main technical details that stand out for their focus on energy-efficiency and preservation of range. The first is the RZ 450e's "range" driving mode, an energy-saving function that shifts the car from using both the 150 kilowatt front electric motor and 80 kilowatt back motor to just the back motor.
"Range" mode also automatically turns off the HVAC system as an energy-saving tactic, which is then supplemented by perhaps the most interesting interior amenity, coined by Lexus as "radiant heating." Housed where the glovebox typically sits on the passenger side and under the steering column for the driver, radiant heating is a feature that utilizes personal heating as a clever way to lessen the need for traditional forced air.
The combination of heated seats, heated steering wheel, and "radiant heating" system close the knees provides a powerful personal bubble of warmth to passengers (Image credit: Lexus"
"Instead of trying to heat the entire cabin, which is somewhat inefficient because of heat loss through the glass and roof," Kitzens says the RZ 450e's radiant heat and seat warmers turn on automatically when starting the vehicle. "What that does is provide a very quick, warm up to the actual body. Very quickly, we can create a real sense of warmth, to the point where maybe you're turning that down because you've had enough." If you have more passengers in the back of the car and have to use the HVAC system, Lexus has opted for a more efficient "turbo blower" that distributes air more quickly than a typical fan.
So what is the overall result of these energy-saving features? The RZ 450e's 18 inch model offers 220 mile range. Perhaps still on the lower end, but there is one last interesting service offering that might help anyone interested in the vehicle who isn't sure if the range capabilities will fit their lifestyle. Under the Lexus warranty, any owner of the RZ 450e having to take a long distance trip will be provided 30 days of complimentary rentals over 3 years that can be driven anywhere within the United States and Canada.
After evaluating all of these offerings, the RZ 450e seems to be a car fit for the local commuter rather the long-distance traveler, but succeeds in delivering a similar level of comfort as their more traditional Lexus models. Time will tell whether or not more clever features such as the 450e's can contribute to an even more expansive range, which could ultimately shift the electric vehicle into a more mainstream consumer choice.
The RZ 450e is now available for purchase, with a starting price of $59,650.
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