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Lexus showcases first battery-powered EV in Korea

By Byun Hye-jin

Published : June 21, 2023 - 15:27

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Lexus International CEO Watanabe Takashi poses for a photo next to the Lexus RZ 450e before a press conference at Lotte World Tower in Songpa-gu, Seoul, on Wednesday. (Lexus Korea) Lexus International CEO Watanabe Takashi poses for a photo next to the Lexus RZ 450e before a press conference at Lotte World Tower in Songpa-gu, Seoul, on Wednesday. (Lexus Korea)

Toyota’s premium brand Lexus on Wednesday announced the Korean launch of its first battery-powered electric vehicle, the all-new electric RZ 450e, marking a shift from its hybrid EV-focused business portfolio.

“Korea is a key market for understanding the latest trends of (the) automotive market because customers here are trend-savvy and show great interest in cutting-edge technology,” said Lexus International CEO Watanabe Takashi during a press conference in Seoul. “Lately, global markets are showing signs that battery-powered cars are expected to take up huge market share worldwide.”

While other automakers have favored launching fully-electric vehicles over hybrid cars, Toyota and Lexus largely stuck to the development of hybrid vehicles over the last few years. However, Takashi highlighted the importance of developing cars that fit with each country's energy policy and infrastructure, adding that the company plans to transition to full-electrification suitable for the Korean market through the new RZ car models.

Lexus launched its first hybrid car, the EV RX300h, in Korea in 2006, and rolled out a series of hybrid lineups with combustion engines and electric motors, including last year’s NX Plug-in Hybrid.

Takashi, who was appointed as head of Lexus International in March, explained that he wanted "to show Toyota and Lexus Korea's strong commitment to the Korean market," which has seen growing demand for luxury fully-electric vehicles.

The RZ 450e is Lexus’ first fully-electric vehicle with the brand’s first EV modular platform e-TNGA, which adopts a rigid car body and low center of gravity. The front and rear part of the car are equipped with two e-Axle modules, which offers strong powertrain performance for the direct four-wheel drive system.

The 71.4 kilowatt-per-hour lithium-ion battery allows for a drive range of up to 377 kilometers on a single charge, the carmaker said. The car can drive longer journeys by switching to “range mode,” which automatically turns off air conditioning and limits the maximum speed, according to Kasai Yoichiro, assistant chief engineer at Lexus International.

Lexus has also showcased the New Generation RX, the fifth-generation model since it debuted the RX 400h, its first luxury hybrid crossover utility vehicle, in 2006. The car model comes with three powertrain options -- hybrid, plug-in hybrid and turbo engine hybrid.

“Target customers for the RZ models are (those) in their 30s and 40s who are interested in work-life balance, while RX cars are more suitable for (those in their) 40s (who have teenage children),” said Kang Dae-hwan, managing director at Toyota and Lexus Korea.

The price for the RZ 450e ranges from 84.8 million ($65,600) to 92.5 million won. The New Generation RX models are available from 97.4 million to 115.6 million won.