Toyota Introduces Compact Hybrid Concept Car

DN Staff

January 11, 2010

3 Min Read
Toyota Introduces Compact Hybrid Concept Car

DETROIT - Toyota Motor Salesreinforced its commitment to hybrid technology today, rolling out a compacthybrid concept vehicle and announcing that it will introduce eight all-newhybrid models in the next few years.

The concept car, called the FT-CH,has a wheelbase that's 6 inches shorter than that of the Prius, and an overalllength that is 22 inches shorter. Designed at Toyota'sEuropean Design and Development Center in Nice, France, the caris said to be targeted at an inner-city environment, and is therefore sized tobe more nimble and maneuverable than the Prius. If it does reach production,the vehicle's lighter weight and lower cost would enable Toyota to market it at a younger,less-affluent buyer demographic.

"It's a package that Toyotadealers and customers have been asking for," said Jim Lentz, president ofToyota Motor Sales. Lentz made the announcement to a crowd of more than athousand journalists at Detroit'sCobo Hall, which is hosting the annual NorthAmerican International Auto Show here.

Lentz also told the audience that Toyotais developing a "Prius family" marketing strategy for North America that will include the launch of eight new hybrid modelsover the next few years. The eight-vehicle launch will not include re-designsof current hybrids. Rather, it will include new dedicated hybrid vehicles andhybrid-ized versions of existing gasoline-burning cars.

Toyotaalso said it has kicked off a global demonstration program involving 600plug-in versions of the Prius. Early this year, 150 of the plug-in hybrids willcome to North America, where they will placedwith regional partners for market analysis.

Toyota'sannouncements are considered significant because they reinforce the company'scommitment to hybrid technology at a time when some other automakers have begunto announce rollout of pure, battery-powered electric vehicles. Most notably,Nissan has said it will soon roll out the battery-powered Leaf electricvehicle, while Ford has said it will unveil two EVs in the next two years.

To be sure, Toyotadid say it will introduce a small battery-electric vehicle "similar to the GMEV1" in 2012. "It will be kind of a niche vehicle - a small urban commuter typeof car," said a Toyotaspokesman.

The company's representatives added; however, that Toyota is not aiming forlarge production volumes of pure electric vehicles, as Nissan is. Instead, thevast majority of its efforts will be aimed at hybrid technology. "We're reallycommitted to having a hybrid version of every car," the spokesman said.

Speaking after today's event, Toyota representatives told Design News that EV battery technologyis still "hideously expensive," which is why the company has targeted hybridsinstead of pure electrics. They estimated that today's EV batteries costbetween $1,000 and $1,200 per kilowatt-hour. At that cost, they said, a largefive-seat sedan with a 200-mile range could employ a battery that costs $50,000or more.

"If you design the battery pack correctly, you could get 200miles (of range) out of an electric vehicle," said Paul Williamsen, nationalmanager of Lxus College in Torrance, CA. "The question is, why would you dothat? We think a strong hybrid is more economical and a better choice for theenvironment."

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