Toyota revealed today at the Detroit Auto Show the FT-CH Concept, a new hybrid vehicle designed especially for urban use. The new concept is with 560mm shorter than the current Prius and could be a preview for the long-rumoured Toyota Prius Coupe which will be built to take on cars such as the upcoming Honda CR-Z which will make its official debut at this year's Detroit Show.
The FT-CH was designed by the Toyota ED2 design studio in Nice and aims at a younger audience than the traditional Prius buyer. Also, the car is much ligher and more efficient comparing to the 2010 Toyota Prius. Even the price will be lower comparing it to the Prius. Toyota confirmed today in Detriot that it intends to bring an all-electric car to market by 2012 and a fuel-cell vehicle by 2015.
CH (which refers to the compact hybrid) is actually a part of the compact class. For some perspective, the best way to describe it would be to compare it to the Prius, a mid-sized car. As such, the Toyota FT-CH shows the functionality and attitude of a vehicle that works well within the urban setting.
The size of the FT-CH makes it maneuverable, nimble and responsive. According to Lentz, the FT-CH is the package that many Toyota customers and dealers have been waiting for. The style of the FT-CH was created by the brand’s European Design and Development (ED²) center located in Nice, France.
It is shorter than the Prius by 22 inches while its width is less by not even an inch. While it may appear that the FT-CH has smaller external dimensions than the Prius, it still offers maximum passenger comfort. Furthermore, the interior has just enough room but it stands out because of its creative sense of style. One highlight of the FT-CH is that the designers at ED² managed to depict a type of appeal that is now known as the 8-bit generation.
For those unfamiliar with this terminology, the 8-bit generation refers to the early 1980s when the video game industry was then ruled by the 8-bit microprocessor technology. With the many advances in technology, the 8-bit is now part of the retro period.
Thus it is not surprising to see art and music that have been inspired by the 8-bit. By providing a throwback to the 8-bit generation, Toyota hopes that it will increase its appeal especially with the young buyers as it also associated with innovation, fun, and style. Additionally, the FT-CH is lighter than the Prius and is more fuel efficient.
Toyota also expects that in order to become more attractive to the younger demographic, who are usually not as affluent as the older generation, the FT-CH will be priced lower than the Prius. Lentz confirms that since the Prius is now universally known for its hybrid technology, TMS will start to develop its family “marketing strategy” especially for the North American market. Lentz say that with this, they hope to be able to maximize the brand equity of the Prius.
Lentz adds that they are still forming the strategy and clarified that it will clearly need more models in order to be called a family. The FT-CH is one of the concepts that the company is considering for this family, Lentz concludes. Toyota intends to sell a million hybrids annually worldwide starting in early 2010.
Majority of this is expected to be sold in North America. To meet this objective, Toyota revealed plans to release eight new hybrid models in the coming years. However Toyota states that it will not include the next generation models of its current hybrid cars. Rather it will solely be for the new hybrid cars and the hybrid versions for many of its current gas engine units.
At the core of its hybrid technology is the battery. Toyota has long been dedicated to the research and development of improved nickel-metal hydride batteries. This was started in the early stages of the development of the Prius during the early 1990s. After seven models and three generations, Toyota has managed to improve the reliability, quality, and energy density, all while being able to decrease the weight, size, and most importantly the cost.
One of the significant components of Toyota’s achievements with regards to hybrid technology has been its joint venture partnership with the company Panasonic. By the end of this year, Panasonic EV Energy (PEVE) will have three fully operational but separate production facilities.
The total combined production from these three plants is estimated to be one million units per annum. In order to move forward with its electrification, Toyota launched a global demonstration program that involved around 600 Prius vehicles.
By the start of this year Toyota says that 150 plug-in hybrid vehicles will start to enter the U.S. They will be put in different regional cluster through its selected partners. These will then be used for technical demonstration and market or consumer analysis.