Recently, Toyota teased the world with drawings of a small, economical concept car called FT-Bh. Now, that concept is getting its moment under the lights at the Geneva Motor Show. The FT-Bh could be the next big thing in cheap transportation, or it could be just another concept car fantasy.
The FT-Bh may look like another hopeless little hatchback, but it is quite an engineering feat. According to Toyota, the little hatchback only weighs 1,733 pounds. A Scion iQ, weighs 2,100 pounds, and the FT-Bh is significantly larger (about the size of Toyota’s Yaris). Toyota achieved this lightness with a structure made from aluminum, magnesium, and high-strength steel.
Weight is the car’s worst enemy; every added pound makes a vehicle that much harder to move or stop. Conversely, everything from acceleration to fuel economy can be improved by shedding weight. That is why building such a light car is important. The FT-Bh won’t win any races, but Toyota claims it will be hyper-efficient. The car’s theoretical mileage is 134.5 miles per gallon, enough to drive from New York City to Springfield, Massachusetts with a single gallon of fuel. Try that in your Prius.
The FT-Bh’s powertrain is just as minimal as its chassis. It uses the same Hybrid Synergy Drive layout as other Toyotas, but everything is smaller. The Atkinson cycle engine is a miniscule 1.0-liter, with only two cylinders. It is connected to a downsized electric motor through an electrically variable transmission. The whole package is supposed to weigh 200 pounds less than the equivalent Prius powertrain.
Toyota didn’t stop there; every bit of the FT-Bh was designed to be as efficient as possible. The LED headlights, interior lighting, and other electrical components use 50 percent less power than a normal cars. Like an eco-friendly house, the FT-Bh’s windows and paint are designed to regulate interior temperatures; this car won’t be an oven on summer days. Consequently, Toyota installed more efficient heating and air conditioning units.
Toyota says the exterior was designed to represent a piece of fabric stretched between fastening points. It takes the Prius’ Kamm-tail design to the extreme, adding plenty of ducts and spoilers to channel air around the car. The result is a little jarring, especially the front fenders that are almost completely separated from the body. However, the shape is very aerodynamic, with an ultra-low 0.235 coefficient of drag.
Toyota did not announce any plans to build the FT-Bh, but it did say the car was future-proof. The two-cylinder engine could switch from gasoline to compressed natural gas (CNG), and the whole powertrain could be converted to a plug-in setup. Either way, the FT-Bh seems like a logical choice for production. It takes the proven design of the Prius to new levels of performance.