Toyota Motor Corp. has unveiled its latest small gasoline-electric hybrid concept car, the FT-Bh, at the 82nd Geneva International Motor Show. Toyota developed the FT-Bh as an ultra-fuel-efficient concept car that would compete in the B segment under the theme of "ecomotion," a term derived from “eco” and “emotion.”
The concept is aimed at creating a production car that boasts of being highly responsive and having nimble operability. Aside from its operational ease, the FT-Bh boasts of consuming only 2.1 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers under the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), and emitting a carbon dioxide level of just 49 g/km, which is less than half the current average for B-segment vehicles.
These had contributed to the significant reduction of the FT-Bh weight. These permitted the installation of a more-efficient powertrain and led to reduced air resistance too. Toyota had fitted a small fuel tank together with a lithium-ion battery under the rear seat, giving the concept a low center of gravity.
Cars with a low center of gravity often boast of an improved driving performance. Toyota also made sure that the FT-Bh is provided with an aerodynamic architecture that exudes performance.
It features a bullet-shaped body with sleek proportions. The concept’s tapered rear body and slightly curved rear-end further reduce air resistance.
The concept’s long roof is merged seamlessly with the windshield, while allowing the narrow pillars to maintain high visibility. The FT-Bh benefits from the elements of Toyota's next-generation "Keen Look" styling, which features vertical lamps integrated into fenders and a large lower grille.
Toyota also displayed two alternative concepts at the Geneva Motor Show -- a compressed natural gas (CNG) hybrid variant with cabons dioxide emissions of 38 g/km; and a plug-in hybrid version with CO2 emissions of just 19 g/km.
For the FT-Bh concept, Toyota wanted a model whose overall weight would be lower compared to the 1.0-liter Yaris by 25%. Since the Yaris has a total mass of 1,030 kg, this meant the concept car should weigh around 786 kg.
To do this, the brand needed to use a mix of magnesium, aluminum, and high-tensile steel. One issue that needed to be resolved was the fact that the hybrid powertrain was heavier compared to the standard 1.0-liter in the Yaris. In fact, the powertrain increases the concept car’s weight by about 60 kg. This meant that the weight of the other components had to be reduced like that of the electronics, interior trim, chassis, and bodyshell.
Overall, the weight that needed to be lowered was around 340 kg, which is 33% of the weight of the Yaris. To make this possible, engineers at Toyota knew that they needed to lower the weight of both the chassis and body by 33%. Powertrain and electronics needed to be lowered by 27% with the body-in-white mass lowered by around 20% to 25%.
Finally, the trim and the parts of the interior would have to be halved. However, the engineers also had the understanding that even if the weight was reduced, the performance and, more importantly, the safety should not be compromised. The main task in reducing the weight was to do so for the parts of its cabin. This is because for this part of the vehicle, it results in what is known as a ripple effect.
What this means is that when this feature has its weight lowered, the rest of the vehicle’s components are likely reduced as well. Let’s suppose that the applied load of the suspension and the body structure is lowered, this meant that the corresponding parts could be downsized. Further, because of this reduction, it would also mean that the needed engine displacement could be lowered.
Thus not only is weight saved but there’s even thermal energy loss. The reduction of the weight can also be seen in the interior design of the FT-Bh concept and the minimalist approach implemented. It reveals minimum changes in its structure. Meanwhile, the designers made use of components that are lightweight but have high torsional stiffness.
With these two, the interior is able to deliver remarkable ergonomics and amazing functionality while having the least weight. Lowering the weight also meant that the FT-Bh concept would have a center of gravity that is lower, in fact at around 541 mm. This meant better braking and handling that showed agility and better response. Of course, it also meant production costs would be lowered ensuring that if this concept car does go into production, it will be more affordable to a large customer demographic.