Lexus LF-30 Electrified Concept announces the brand's entry in EVs

It's a 536-hp statement of intent with in-wheel motors

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The star of the Lexus booth at the biennial Tokyo auto show is an extremely futuristic concept named LF-30 Electrified that previews the firm's cars could look like — and be powered by — in 2030. The LF-30 Electrified uses clever technology to take Lexus into the electric vehicle segment for the first time.

Lexus has leveraged parent company Toyota's expertise in the field of hybrid powertrains to become one of the industry's pioneers in the segment, but it has always shunned fully electric drivetrains. The LS-30 signals an about-face. Drawing on lessons learned while designing hybrids, engineers developed a 536-horsepower drivetrain that consists of a mammoth, 110-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack and four in-wheel electric motors that can deliver front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive.

Don't let the press images fool you; the LS-30 is huge. It's nearly as long as the firm's LS flagship sedan, closer to a Chevrolet Suburban in width, and it weighs almost 5,300 pounds. It can nonetheless reach 60 mph from a stop in 3.8 seconds, and it can travel for up to 310 miles on one charge according to the overly optimistic WLTP testing cycle. Those figures might be irrelevant, because the driver can become a passenger by turning on the on-board autonomous technology and letting it worry about how quickly to accelerate, and when to charge. There's even a drone that Lexus calls an Airporter that autonomous transports luggage, for example, from in front of the owner's house directly to the car's trunk. Odds are you won't even need to tip it.

Traveling in the LF-30 feels different depending on where you're sitting. The driver experiences a new concept Lexus calls Tazuna that draws inspiration from how a rein can create a mutual understanding between a horse and a rider; it sounds similar to what Mazda aimed for with the Miata, which famously channeled Jinba Ittai, or horse and rider as one, but it's a completely different take on it. The driver can adjust the stereo or dial a destination in the navigation system without taking his or her eyes off the road thanks to steering wheel-mounted switches and a large head-up display.

The driver feels a lot like a jet fighter pilot, then. The passenger, on the road hand, is traveling first-class thanks to a seat inspired by high-zoot air travel, and a gesture-controlled screen. The rear seats recline, and the folks sitting in them can watch movies on a voice- and gesture-controlled glass roof called SkyGate. It can alternatively show navigation directions, or a starry sky.

As for the exterior design, you'll love it or you'll hate it, which is par for the course when it comes to the company's cars. Lexus explains it "visually articulated the LF-30 Electrified's unique energy flow" thanks in part to the in-wheel motors, which are much smaller and easier to integrate than a gasoline-powered engine, or even a single, bigger electric motor. What's clear is that the spindle grille won't go away even as Lexus lets battery-powered models settle into its range.

The Lexus LF-30 is more of a statement of intent than an accurate preview of a production model. Lexus pledged to launch its first EV and its first plug-in hybrid during the early 2020s, however, and it hopes its electrified models will ultimately outsell its non-electrified cars. To reach that goal, it announced every car in its range will be electrified to some degree by 2025, which is admirable, but also inevitable if it wants to continue peddling big, heavy vehicles during the next decade.

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