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Detroit 2010: Toyota FT-CH Concept Previews Compact Prius Model

Funky entry-level hybrid inspired by Nintendo games

 |  Jan 11 2010, 10:40 AM

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Toyota has announced that it will expand the Prius name to become an entire family of dedicated hybrid vehicles. Launched today at the Detroit Auto Show, the FT-CH Hybrid Concept is a look at what the next model in the Prius lineup is likely to be.

Inspired by 8-bit technology made famous by early Nintendo games like Contra and Mario Brothers, the car is funky with plenty of edges and even some square holes designed into the bodywork.

As for the car itself, it is 22-inches shorter than the current Prius, but has a wheelbase that is only 6-inches shorter, offering maximum interior room. Inside, there’s room for four. The name itself signifies the car’s designation, with the CH standing for Compact Hybrid. According to Toyota, “The FT-CH captures the spirit and functionality of a car that thrives in the inner-city environment; sized right to be nimble, responsive and maneuverable.”

There’s no word from Toyota on what is under the hood, other than some sort of Hybrid Synergy Drive system, that gets better fuel mileage than the Prius – an impressive feat indeed when the current third-generation Prius nets 51/48 mpg (city/highway).

Toyota is expected to deliver this model to market, keeping much of its fresh and funky design.

“Other dedicated hybrid models are also on their way. “In the early 2010s, Toyota plans to sell a million hybrids per year globally, a majority of those in North America,” said Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Sales president. “To accomplish this, Toyota will launch eight all new hybrid models over the next few years.  These will not include next generation versions of current hybrids; instead, they will be all new dedicated hybrid vehicles, or all new hybrid versions of existing gas engine models.”

Lentz also commented that in the future hybrids will be the core powertrain technology for Toyota and that Toyota believes hybrid technology will become the staple throughout the auto industry.

GALLERY: Toyota FT-CH Hybrid Concept

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GALLERY: Toyota FT-CH Hybrid Concept Official Photos

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Official release after the jump:

The FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept vehicle is the latest addition to Toyota’s comprehensive advanced technology vehicle line up. With Hybrid Synergy Drive as its core technology, Toyota is exploring many solutions for the future of mobility – from battery electric vehicles, to plug-in hybrids, to fuel cell hybrids, to conventional hybrids like the FT-CH concept.

The concept was styled by Toyota’s European Design and Development (ED²) center in Nice, France. Its world premier occurred at the 2010 North American International Auto Show. This compact, nimble hybrid represents the expansion of hybrid options for the customer. The FT-CH is lighter in weight and more fuel efficient than the Prius. The concept is designed to target a lower price point than the Prius, thus appealing to a younger, less-affluent buyer demographic.

At an overall length of 153 inches and width of 68.5 inches, the FT-CH is sized to be maneuverable and responsive. In spite of its compact size, the concept is designed for maximum passenger comfort and interior space.

FT-CH Specs
Length 153 inches
Width 68.5 inches
Height 55 inches
Wheelbase 100 inches
Seating 4

The FT-CH design was inspired by the 8-bit generation. This vivid, high-energy style is patterned after the 8-bit microprocessor technology that dominated the 80’s home video game industry.

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TOYOTA UNVEILS COMPACT DEDICATED HYBRID CONCEPT,
REVEALS FUTURE PLAN FOR “PRIUS FAMILY”
NORTH AMERICAN MARKETING STRATEGY
Advanced Battery R&D and Manufacturing Capacity will Rise with
Scheduled Roll-out of Plug-in Hybrids, Fuel Cells and Battery Electric Vehicles
DETROIT, January 11, 2010—Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A, Inc., today
unveiled the FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Auto
Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.  The FT-CH is a concept that would address Toyota’s stated
strategy to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices to its customers, as it
begins to introduce plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (BEVs) in model year
2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015 in global markets.
“Within the next 10 to 20 years, we will not only reach peak oil we will enter a
period where demand for all liquid fuels will exceed supply,” said Jim Lentz, TMS
president.   “A century after the invention of the automobile, we must re-invent it with
powertrains that significantly reduce or eliminate the use of conventional petroleum
fuels.  One of many alternatives is through what is commonly called the electrification of
the automobile.  By far, the single most successful example of this has been the gas-
electric hybrid.”
The CH stands for compact hybrid as in compact class and it’s a concept that
can best be defined by comparing it with the mid-size class Prius.  The FT-CH captures
the spirit and functionality of a car that thrives in the inner-city environment; sized right to
be nimble, responsive and maneuverable.

“It’s a package Toyota dealers and customers have been asking for,” added
Lentz.
The FT-CH was styled at Toyota’s European Design and Development (ED²)
center in Nice, France.  Compared to Prius, it is 22 inches shorter in overall length, yet
loses less than an inch in overall width.  In spite of its compact external dimensions, FT-
CH was designed for maximum passenger comfort and interior roominess, with an
imaginative sense of style.
ED² designers looked to capture the vivid, high-energy appeal of what has come
to be called the 8-bit generation.  Popularized in the early 80’s, 8-bit microprocessor
technology dominated the budding home video game industry.  Today, 8-bit is
considered a specific retro-style that is embraced by such things as 8-bit genre music
and 8-bit inspired art.
The direct reference to the 8-bit generation is meant to be fun and innovative,
colorful and stylish, with strong appeal to young buyers.  Lighter in weight and even
more fuel efficient than Prius, the concept specifically targets a lower price point than
Prius, thus appealing to a younger, less-affluent buyer demographic.
Pointing to how Prius has become a universal icon for hybrid technology, Lentz
confirmed that TMS is developing a Prius family “marketing strategy” for North America
that will take full advantage of the Prius brand equity.
“The strategy is still taking shape and obviously it will require additional models to
qualify as a family,” said Lentz.  “Among others, the FT-CH is a concept that we are
considering.”
In the early 2010s, Toyota plans to sell a million hybrids per year globally, a
majority of those in North America.  To accomplish this, Toyota will launch eight all new
hybrid models over the next few years.  These will not include next generation versions
of current hybrids; instead, they will be all new dedicated hybrid vehicles, or all new
hybrid versions of existing gas engine models.
The heart of hybrid technology is its battery.  Since the early 90’s, during the
early stages of first-generation Prius development, Toyota has been committed to

in-house R&D of advanced nickel-metal hydride batteries.  Through three generations
of Prius and a total of seven full-hybrid models, it has systematically reduced size,
weight and cost while improving energy density, quality and reliability.
Toyota’s joint venture partnership with Panasonic has been a key element of its
success in the advancement of hybrid technology.  Later this year, Panasonic EV Energy
(PEVE) will have three separate, fully operational production facilities with a combined
capacity of more than one million units per year.
Moving the promise of electrification one step further, Toyota recently kicked off
its global demonstration program involving approximately 600 Prius plug-in hybrid
electric vehicles.  Beginning early this year, 150 PHVs will begin to arrive in the U.S.
where they will be placed in regional clusters with select partners for market/consumer
analysis and technical demonstration.
The Prius PHV introduces Toyota’s first generation lithium-ion drive battery.
When fully charged, the vehicle is targeted to achieve a maximum electric-only range of
about 13 miles and capable of achieving highway speeds of more than 60 mph in
electric-only mode. For longer distances, the Prius PHV reverts to “hybrid mode” and
operates like a regular Prius. This ability to utilize all-electric power for short trips or
hybrid power for longer drives alleviates the issue of limited cruising range encountered
with pure-electric vehicles.
All program vehicles will be equipped with data retrieval/communication devices
which will monitor activities such as:  how often the vehicle is charged and when,
whether the batteries are depleted or being topped-off during charging, trip duration and
all-electric driving range, combined mpg and so on.
As it becomes available, data from the program vehicles will be posted to a
dedicated Web site.  This in use, readily available data will help consumers understand
how the vehicles are being used and how they’re performing.
Toyota believes this demonstration program is a necessary next step in societal
preparation in that it allows Toyota the unique opportunity to inform, educate and prepare
customers for the electrification of the automobile in general and the introduction
of plug-in hybrid technology.

Toyota is moving quickly with the development of PHV technology well beyond
this demonstration program.  Advanced battery R&D programs with nickel-metal, lithium-
ion and “beyond lithium” are underway for a wide variety of applications in conventional
hybrids, PHVs, BEVs and FCHVs.
In the early 1990s, Toyota began R&D on building a practical and affordable
hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.   FCHV technical advancements have moved at a rapid pace.
Engineers have made great strides in cost reduction targets in both materials and
manufacturing and Toyota is committed to bringing hydrogen fuel cells to global markets
in 2015.
Toyota’s latest model, the Toyota FCHV-advanced began its own national
demonstration program late last year.  Over the course of the three year program, more
than 100 vehicles will be placed in an effort to demonstrate the technology’s
performance, reliability and practicality in everyday use.
Recently field tested in southern California by two national laboratories at the
request of the U.S. Department of Energy, the FCHV-advanced confirmed an estimated
single-tank fuel range of 431 miles.  In combined city and highway driving from Santa
Monica to San Diego the FCHV-adv logged an estimated 68 miles per kilogram of
hydrogen, the rough equivalent of 68 miles per gallon.  That range is equivalent to a
Highlander hybrid at more than double the MPG with zero emissions other than water
vapor.
In 1997, Toyota introduced the RAV4 EV battery electric vehicle in California.
1,484 of these 100 mile range large-battery electric vehicles were either sold or leased
over the course of the program.  Nearly half are still on the road.
Shortly thereafter, Toyota started a modest demonstration program with a small-
battery electric urban commuter vehicle, called the e-com.  This concept addressed the
idea of the “on-demand” city station car similar to the Zip-car business model that is
becoming popular in large urban areas.  Although shorter in range, the e-com
program addressed a specific mobility niche at a much more affordable price than the
RAV4 EV.

The RAV4 EV and e-com programs were short lived due to lack of commitment
from the market; the consumer and the consumer’s environmental mind set were not
ready to commit to battery electric vehicles at that time.  Recent increased awareness of
environmental issues and the benefits of advanced technology vehicles have
reinvigorated an interest in the electric vehicle market.  As a result, Toyota will bring a
small, urban commuter lithium-ion BEV to market in model year 2012.
Battery technology has progressed significantly in the time since the RAV4 EV
and e-com programs.  But major challenges still remain.  The cost of lithium-ion batteries
needs to be reduced significantly, or a more affordable alternative developed.
Like hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, battery electrics will require the creation of
infrastructure for recharging on the go.  This issue of range is also a challenge to
overcome.  Even at 100 miles, BEVs as a primary mode of transportation do not yet offer
what most consumers see as true mobility.
Toyota believes these are hurdles that will be cleared.  For the last decade its
focus has been to concentrate on a comprehensive advanced technology strategy
including BEVs, PHVs, and FCHVs.  Common to all three is the move to electrification,
the full commitment to advanced battery technology and how lessons learned from
conventional hybrid R&D have given Toyota a leg-up on all three.
###

  • Casey Verdant

    Detroit has the chance to take the automotive industry green! The Toyota FT-CH, the Electric Fiat 500, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and the Honda CR-Z hybrid are all great eco-friendly cars: let’s hope for more like them as the Auto Show continues.

    If you are interested in hybrids, fuel cells, or any other green technologies, check out http://www.greencollareconomy.com. It has hundreds of case studies on emerging green tech and the largest b2b green directory on the web.

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