Toyota Motor Corp.'s FT-CH concept hybrid compact car experiments with more than the engine.
Coming in 22 inches shorter than Toyota's existing Prius hybrid, designers had to find new ways to package functional parts within a smaller and lighter package also allowing the firm to cut production costs for a vehicle that potentially could be a compact member of the Prius family of hybrid vehicles.
As a result, the rear windshield in the concept is polycarbonate rather than glass, and the PC also integrates the rear lights, designer Ben Urwin said during the Jan. 11 introduction of the concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Urwin worked on the FT-CH at Toyota's design studio in Nice, France.
Headlights move from the front fascia up toward the windshield a move that Urwin said reduces weight and complexity by eliminating much of the wiring and electronics packaging between the lighting controls on the dashboard and the lights themselves.
It's all about simplicity and reducing parts, Urwin said.
Moving the headlights up out of the fascia also reduces the cost of replacing the front end in case of a crash, he said. Smaller lights in the plastic front end still provide additional lighting similar to a fog lamp.
A series of small vents in the plastic housing near the headlights brings fresh air into the passenger cabin to reduce the load on the air conditioner, which also will improve engine performance, said designer Ken Billes.
The interior, meanwhile, features a stripped-down look using plastic extensively in thin seats and interior trim.
Toyota has set a goal of selling 1 million hybrid vehicles annually, and while the FT-CH is only a design concept, it shows the carmaker's intent to expand its product offerings, and points toward future model innovations, said Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of the North American-unit Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. in Torrance, Calif.
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