Subaru has revealed the name of its first battery-electric vehicle (BEV): Solterra. Built on the dedicated e-Subaru global platform, the C-SUV will go on sale next year in countries around the world.
The Solterra will join the ever-expanding electric C-SUV segment which features the likes of the Volkswagen (VW) ID.4, the Ford Mustang Mach-e, and the Audi e-Tron. Given the present popularity and higher residual value of SUVs, the decision by so many carmakers to opt for this segment might appear obvious, but the reasoning goes deeper.
The development of new electric drivetrains is an expensive venture, one which the higher price tags of these large vehicles can help compensate for. A BloombergNEF study also recently revealed larger BEVs are expected to reach price parity with their fossil-fuel counterparts earlier than smaller electric models, encouraging consumer adoption and directing development.
Defining a name
The new Subaru’s name was created via a portmanteau of the Latin for Sun and Earth, Sol and Terra. This naming convention signifies the need to appreciate and coexist with the planet, the carmaker explained. This effort to be seen to have a planet-friendly attitude comes as OEMs respond to a wave of climate concern by building electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) and foregoing fossil-fuel-powered ones.
‘Subaru gave this name to the EV to appreciate mother nature and further advance the form of coexistence with it, together with our customers, and to represent our commitment to deliver traditional Subaru SUV’s go-anywhere capabilities in an all-electric vehicle,’ the carmaker said.
Solterra will join Subaru’s line of existing SUVs, including the Ascent, the Outback, the Forester and the XV. It will go on sale globally by the middle of 2022 in markets including Japan, the US, Canada, Europe and China.
The Solterra will sit on top of the e-Subaru global platform, which the OEM developed alongside Toyota, another carmaker looking to introduce an electric SUV into the market: the bz4X. This jointly-developed platform will enable the rollout of various EV types by combining multiple modules and components, like the front, centre and rear of the vehicle.
This modular approach to BEV platforms is a running theme for carmakers as they look to streamline development and production, as well as incorporating collaboration. For example, VW’s modular electric-drive (MEB) platform is the foundation of its ID. family, but the company also joined electric forces with Ford. In a similar vein, while the two Japanese OEMs came together to build the Solterra’s platform, Subaru emphasised its aim to realise ‘superior passive safety and vehicle stability’ within the build.
Looking past the BEV’s modular platform, the two companies also worked together on product planning, design and performance evaluation. Relying on their respective strengths, Subaru leant into its all-wheel-drive capabilities, which unsurprisingly also informed the building of the bz4X. Meanwhile, Toyota’s vehicle-electrification technology helped give the Solterra a boost, lending it attributes that ‘only an all-electric vehicle can offer.’
This modular, collaborative approach will help keep development costs down and ensure the creation of more advanced technologies. However, it will also mean the homogenisation of powertrains. On this path, many BEVs will end up sharing similar designs and capabilities on a smaller handful of electric bases. So, while consumers may only be able to choose from a few platforms, the scope for brand-based design will reside largely within the body and interior. This means carmakers will need to make sure they know what their customers want.