Many colleagues in the press were furious because they fell for Volkswagen’s April Fool’s prank. Some want these jokes to be banished forever, but that would give us one less opportunity to have fun. When the GR86 Forum revealed patent documents published on April 1st about an electric saloon developed by Toyota and Subaru, we were almost sure that was a joke. A quick search at the USPTO (US Patent & Trade Office) confirmed they are real.
The date was not the only suspicious thing about the documents. They also showed a body style in which very few manufacturers are betting. Apart from China, saloons are not that popular elsewhere. On the other hand, it is a body style that makes perfect sense for electric cars due to their optimal aerodynamic properties.
As the forum member apex wittily points out, the truth is that the document does not speak about a saloon. He found a sequence of five documents that seem to be related to the same vehicle: 20210094622, 20210094623, 20210094624, 20210094625, and 20210094626. They all have Toyota and Subaru as the applicants.
The patent applications 20210094625 and 20210094626 specifically refer to the “body of an electric vehicle.” The 20210094622 document mentions an “electric vehicle.” The other two, 20210094623 and 20210094624, describe respectively the “body of vehicle” and the “vehicle body lower structure.” These last papers give us the impression that these structures could be used for combustion-engined cars as well.
That reinforces apex’s thesis that these patent applications may be related to the e-TNGA, a modular platform that Toyota will use for its electric cars. He posted that among discussions about whether the joint reveal planned by Toyota and Subaru for April 5 will be for the new GR86 or an electric vehicle.
Both hypotheses are strong. Toyota and Subaru have jointly developed the Toyota GT86 and the Subaru BRZ in the past. The new sports car, which Toyota will rename as GR86 (for Gazoo Racing), is expected by 2021. At the same time, Toyota and Subaru will also develop EVs together. Making these electric cars fun to drive is something that worked really well for Tesla, hence the Gazoo Racing involvement with them.
The good news is that it will take just a few days to learn what the April 5 joint announcement will reveal. If they do not disclose electric vehicle plans, the patent applications may shed more light on them. We’ll read them carefully, and you are more than invited to do the same.