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Toyota FT-CH live unveiling – Click above for high-res image gallery

Toyota brought a downstream version of the small hybrid Lexus LF-CH concept that was unveiled in Frankfurt to the Detroit Auto Show today. The FT-CH Concept – teased a few weeks ago – not only offers small hybrid mentality with a Toyota badge, it could also be a tremendous sales successful if it ever makes it to production.

Toyota didn't say this concept is for sure destined for the showroom floor, but they were hinting at it. The reason we can see this being popular is that, if Toyota sells it, the FT-CH would be priced below the Prius and aimed at a younger audience. The FT-CH is smaller than the Prius too, coming in at just 153 inches long and 68.5 inches wide.

The four-seat concept was designed by Toyota's European Design and Development center in Nice, France with an 8-bit mentality. That's not a put-down. It's actually the style that designers were going for with the FT-CH, and the press conference included references to Contra, Megaman and Super Mario Brothers. Check out a promotional video of a digital rendering of the FT-CH in action on Toyota's new sustainable mobility website.


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Photos by Sebastian Blanco /
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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.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 28 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Agreed! I like the design risks they took here. Thank you Toyota for making something more unique instead of the normal bland designs you come up with. Now put it into production just as it appears!
        • 5 Years Ago
        It is so close to introduction, that I suspect this is pretty much what the production car will look like. At least I hope so. It fits better into the higher style Scion line here.

        Let's hope Toyota discovered handling and driver ergonomics/feedback in keeping with the style.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is a concept as evidenced by the lack of visible turn signal lights, unless they are hiding under the black plastic somewhere... It looks like they still have some work to do on the interior design. I like the design, it would make a nice EV commuter.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Another thing that will probably change is the rear hatch, which as far as I can see in this one is non-existent, or is just the rear window glass. The glass would make for a rather high trunk sill.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's not very daring being radical on a concept car......
        • 5 Years Ago
        One thing that seems to indicate that this is (near to) production: the wheel covers are all the same and could be interchanged -- i.e. they are not mirror image on each side.

        Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        One thing that probably will *not* make it to a production model: check out the interlocking body color wiper arms (in photos that look down on the front). Or ... maybe they will surprise us?

        Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        There's a black bulge just to the outside of the headlights, most easily visible in the 10th photo. I bet that's the turn signal, probably lots of small yellow LEDs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That is hot! I'd buy one in a New York minute! I am a big fan of the designs like the Volvo C30 that drop the rear backlight glass level below the belt line, as it really aids visibility.

      This is a real, legitimate design home run. Toyota needs to build this immediately.
      • 5 Years Ago
      i'd love it if they dropped the second row of seating, it's too long.
        • 5 Years Ago
        also, tweeted about this
        the entire chip community lol'd and wtf'd
        and all was merry
      • 5 Years Ago
      "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."

      Actually, they were short lived because Chevron got control of the NiMH battery patent that these cars used and then promptly sued Toyota to force them to stop making the Rav4-EV in 2003. In 2004 they came to a settlement where Toyota and other manufacturers could continue using NiMH batteries in hybrids provided they did not have wall plugs (they had been making them since 1998 and had a legal right to continue). This way, all the energy still comes from gasoline, and parallel hybrids have a maximum mileage limit around 50-60 mpg, which was an acceptable compromise for Chevron.

      That is why the new plugin Prius and this new car use lithium ion batteries, because Toyota isn't allowed to use NiMH batteries.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't disagree but there is no legitimate reason why we could not have had plugin hybrids 10 years ago with 20 mile electric only range. You do not need a big wall charger unit for this, you can have a simple 120 V electrical plug, because 20 miles isn't that much charge to top up overnight. The only customer preparation necessary is in teaching people how to grab the plug, pick it up, line up the three holes in the wall with the three prongs on the plug, and ...... push. Also, don't forget to unplug the car when you drive away. I guess customers in 2000 couldn't figure this out.

        Of course the reason we did not have 20 mile EREV's 10 years ago is because that would have led to 200 mile EREV's today.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Mark_BC

        I don't know.
        I think you could argue that the prius has almost single-handedly made hybrid vehicles acceptable to the general public as a trustworthy technology.
        And the new component there is the electric vehicle side.
        I think hybrids have helped market acceptance of full electric quite a bit actually.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "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."

        Oh please, spare us the patronizing rhetoric. How much preparation do you need to plug an electric cord into the wall? Everyone has dozens of electrical appliances. It doesn't take over 12 years to prepare the consumer to learn how to use a wall plug. tt takes about a two hour information briefing.

        What it allows is Toyota and the oil industry lots of time to slowly adapt to the changing market.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder how this ties in to the rumors of a hybrid iQ based scion in dealerships within a year or so.
      I wonder if this is the basis for that car or if this clouded the information coming out and the new iQ based car will not be hybrid at all.
      Or possibly - they are just two totally separate things.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There are so many different panels in the front that I am not sure how can this be a good example of a simple, reliable design. The hood is so small that I might have problems getting my hand in to check the oil.

      I wouldn't mind if this car gets a 3cyl engine... as long as they don't take out the SKS.

      The '8-bit' thing is yet another example of Marketing trying to sell a 'lifestyle' which has nothing to do with the cars features. Hey, no need to do that!, this is a TOYOTA PRIUS, not a Dodge Neon GTS (if such thing exists)
      • 5 Years Ago
      No rational reason they couldn't have done this in the first place, umm small car less weight, more efficiency, wow what a concept, they deserve a medal
        • 5 Years Ago
        Packaging and cooling are easier in a bigger car, so for the mass producers it made sense to go for a larger model first.
        They had to add quite a bit of complexity and mass to a normal ICE car to build the Prius.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like it! I hope we get the details: weight, drive train specifics (plug-in, serial or parallel, capacities, etc.), battery pack capacity, electric range, etc.

      Sincerely, Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        I might be one of few but....I like this car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        big auto is still evil. you wont get anything actually green. other than a paint job on a concept. it's always a couple of years in the future with these fuckers.
        the revolution happened in 2006. they've had plenty of time so at this point we'd be fools to think they are honestly trying. these assholes need us to be angry at them to move. be angry, people. the war is far from over
        • 5 Years Ago
        There is apparently fresh air intakes (to better ventilate the cabin) near the lower lights:
        http://tweetphoto.com/8515362
        And there appear to be rear exhaust air grills. I like the mesh seats -- they make more room inside and they will be cooler in the summer. The geometric sunroof is ... different, though maybe it keeps good structure, while letting in light? The only visual I could do without is the "pincer" headlights and hood, but that is minor -- a color change would likely make this "go away".

        I like the overall shape (a lot), and the wheel covers are sweet -- they are sleek without being bland. I can't see any handles on the rear doors -- does this mean they are "suicide" style? And there may not be any 'B' pillar?

        Neil
      • 5 Years Ago
      This funky design looks more like a Scion than a Toyota, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a production version of this arrives in Scion showrooms as the first hybrid Scion. Mention of the low cost and the appeal to the young tends to reinforce that view.

      Of course, if Toyota decides to cancel the Scion line as some rumors have been implying, that would put a whole different spin on it. A Toyota production version of this would be toned down a bit more.
      • 5 Years Ago
      it's with this "8-bit mentality" that the renewal of lexus was made...

      • 5 Years Ago
      "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."

      Tthe production version of this FT-CH, the Auris hatch hybrid announced for Europe, some version of the iQ (I thought that was electric-only?), and maybe a production version of the FT-HS sports car hybrid shown in 2007. That still leaves four other new hybrid cars. What are they?
        • 5 Years Ago
        If Toyota is including Lexus in its eight all new hybrid models over the next few years, then the Lexus CT 200h (the production version of the Lexus LF-Ch concept) that is expected to debut at the Geneva Auto Show in March is one of them.

        Beyond that...it's not much of a stretch to imagine the European Auris Hybrid leading to a Corolla or Matrix Hybrid for North America. Similarly, the Lexus HS 250h and JDM Toyota Sai have laid the groundwork for a European Avensis Hybrid. And with hybrid versions of the Camry and Highlander already available, it isn't too much of a stretch to imagine hybrid versions of other models that share variants of their structure/platform, such as the Toyota Venza, Sienna and Avalon (itself due for its 4th-generation that is expected to debut next month at the Chicago Auto Show) or the next-gen Lexus ES 350.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am going to have a hard time choosing between this and the Scion iQ (assuming that Scion's iQ still comes to fruition). The Scion iQ may come out as soon as the end of this calendar year. Toyota's iQ gets 55 MPG without Toyota's HSD system, but a larger Scion version of the iQ for North America will probably see less efficient numbers.

      Either way, I'm probably going to get my Aptera deposit back.
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