First Look: Toyota FT-CH Concept

Looking for a smaller Prius? Toyota officially announced the Prius sub-brand of vehicles (all powered by the Hybrid Synergy Drive system) will become a reality at the 2010 Detroit auto show. Toyota's FT CH concept will be smaller and cheaper than the current Prius if it reaches production. Though the FT CH is quite a bit smaller than the Prius, it is nearly as wide and has been designed to maximize interior volume.

No details have been released as yet about platform, powertrain, battery, or performance, but it's likely that the car will be sufficiently smaller and lighter to accommodate an engine that's smaller than anything currently on offer in a U.S. Toyota. A smaller Nickel-Metal-Hydride battery pack will probably be used in order to keep the price down, but if Lithium-Ion technology is not out of the question if the prices fall enough. Downsizing and light-weighting of all components, along with continued improvements in efficiency will probably lower prices to within spitting distance of rival Honda's Insight, though the more sophisticated hybrid system is likely to deliver superior fuel economy.

Toyota's European design center won the styling competition with this muscular hatchback shape that is aimed at engaging the "8-Bit" video-game set. Okay, if they say so. The airy interior suggests it will connect with any device an 8-Bit driver could possibly own, and as shown the seats are minimalist mesh units that look very light (it was locked, so we can't tell you what they feel like). Toyota officials suggest that unless the reaction to this styling model is negative, past history suggests we'll see a production version within 20 months, though the official green light has not been given as yet.

In other Toyota sustainability news, it was announced that a fully electric small car like the FT-EV2 will likely go on sale in 2012 with a lithium-ion battery, capable of traveling 100 miles. A fleet of 100 FCHV fuel-cell powered Highlanders is in use, achieving 431-mile range with 68-mpg (gasoline equivalent) fuel economy. Development is progressing toward a target on-sale date of 2015. And 150 plug-in Priuses are in the works with 13-mile full-EV range and a 65-mph top electric speed.

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