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In A Perfect World...The 2023 Lexus RZ 450e

2023 Lexus RZ 450e front 3/4 view

In a perfect world, it wouldn't matter that the Lexus RZ 450e Luxury model has only 196 miles of range per charge. Most Lexus buyers are homeowners and most EV buyers do most of their charging at home, with charging units installed in their garages or elsewhere on the property.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e rear 3/4 view

Trouble is, it is not a perfect world. And there are some issues larger than any one electric vehicle that are causing some real problems.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e hood up

2023 Lexus RZ 450e electric powerplant

But first, this one electric vehicle. The sharp-eyed among you have probably guessed that this Lexus is a heavily re-styled Toyota bZ4X---so, at the core, Toyota's first mass-market EV is also Lexus'. If you read my review of the bZ4X, you know that I'm unimpressed. Slow for an EV with not much range. The Lexus has almost 100 more horsepower from two electric motors, so it's quicker. Range is still very much an issue.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e rear liftback open

2023 Lexus RZ 450e rear seat

2023 Lexus RZ 450e front seats

2023 Lexus RZ 450e instrument panel

What we're talking here, beyond the added power, is different sheetmetal, nicer quality interior materials, a real instrument cluster instead of the oddball pod in the Toyota and a center touchscreen that looks built-in rather than stuck on.

We're also talking about a starting price for the Luxury model, our tester, of $65,150 with destination. Compare that to the base price of the top-of-the-line Limited version of the bZ4X, which is $47,850. As much as I appreciate the materials and the dashboard, I don't appreciate it $17,300 worth.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e steering wheel and instrument cluster

And there were extra-cost options on our test vehicle, too---$200 for a cold area package, $200 for an illuminated front badge, $550 for a dynamic sky panorama glass roof, $500 for the "Ether" paint job, $140 for a carpeted cargo mat, $25 for leather key gloves, $180 for mud guards and $325 for side and rear puddle lamps.

Bottom line on the window sticker: $67,270. Hard pass from me. There are better upscale small crossover EVs out there, and Lexus itself will build better ones soon.

But even if the RZ 450e knocked my socks off, there are those larger issues.

Let's say you love the RZ 450e enough to part with $67,270 and the purchase and installation of a home charger. You've got it made. Your only concerns will be charging away from home.

More than three years ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered cars in the state by 2035. Other states followed suit. Other countries are on the same timetable. In September of 2020, I considered it doable.

Three years and two months later, I..........I dunno.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e charging

It's not the cars that have me questioning the timetable---it's the infrastructure. There aren't that many more DC fast charging stations near me now than there were in the fall of 2020---and I live in Northern California---the heart of the whole EV thing.

What's more, three years and two months ago, those chargers, then brand-new, worked. They delievered power, at a rate close to what was advertised. Today, with a lot more EVs in service and in need of charging, they often don't.

Take the RZ 450e. Its 196 miles of range per charge is a 100-percent state of charge estimate. But to avoid battery damage, you're advised to only charge it to 80 percent. That's 156.8 miles. And that's if you're willing to find out what happens if your battery runs all the way out. Motor Trend did that so you don't have to. I apply the same rule I use with gasoline and diesel vehicles---the last 25% doesn't get used. But that drops my range per chage in the RZ 450e to 117.6 miles. On the 400-mile trip to Los Angeles from my house, that means three stops along the way and my first order of business when I get there is recharging.

Now, Lexus says the RZ 450e can do 20-80% in "about 30 minutes" on a 150kw DC fast charger. But at an Electrify America 350kw charger (it won't charge this car any faster than a 150, but it was open and the 150s weren't), topping off from 63% to 80% took 22 minutes.

...and that was my peak rate of charge.

For a year or so, I was one of the lucky ones---rarely had to wait too long for a charger, never encountered a broken one, and they always delivered output reasonably close to their advertised peak (or the peak charging rate the car supports).

That's become the exception rather than the rule, at a moment when more and more people are having their first experiences with EVs and EV charging.

A lot will change beginning next year and in 2025, as manufacturers (who've also had enough of EA and other charging companies) begin delivering vehicles that are compatible with the one reliable, large and growing charging network out there---Tesla's. But given what Elon+wild hairs= at X (formerly Twitter), I'm a bit nervous about all our charging eggs going into that particular one basket.

Reliable infrastructure is the key---the thing that will keep your neighbor from saying he's done with EVs after his first.


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