Toyota’s FT-Bh is light but no lightweight

8 March 2012

Toyota FT-Bh front

My favourite car at this year’s Geneva Motor Show was also one of its most ungainly. Toyota’s FT-Bh may be as pretty as a bullfrog but it has its own entrancing charm nonetheless.

And with a claimed 134.5mpg fuel consumption and 49g/km CO2 emissions, it certainly ought to demand attention. That’s about twice as good as you’d get from a 1.0-litre Yaris.

Toyota’s goal with the FT-Bh was to achieve minimum weight and maximum fuel efficiency without resorting to exotic materials. By which Toyota means avoiding materials that are exotic by ordinary car industry yardsticks, so there’s no carbon fibre but there is high-strength steel, aluminium and magnesium. The notion is that the FT-Bh might feed design ideas directly into production cars in the near future.

Toyota FT-Bh rear

Toyota FT-Bh dashboard

As well as the body in white, the hybrid powertrain has also gone on a diet – the engine, motor and battery in the FT-Bh weighs 47kg less than the Yaris Hybrid’s powertrain, or about 90kg less than the Prius’s equivalent parts. It combines a two-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engine with a modest motor and compact lithium-ion batteries.

Inside, bulk has clearly been extensively whittled from the interior fixtures and fittings as well.

Like the curve of the roof, many of the shapes that compose the dashboard and chairs were inspired by the billowing sails of yachts as well as taut-fabric and steel-frame architecture.

All up, the FT-Bh weighs 786kg or about 250kg less than a conventional 1.0-litre Yaris. That’s a saving equivalent to three 13-stone adults, if you find abstract bags of kilograms hard to fathom.

Toyota FT-Bh interior

Toyota FT-Bh wheel trims

The body is slightly longer and a little lower than a Yaris, presenting a smaller frontal area to the wind while the swooping, droplet shape of the body offers much less aerodynamic drag. The Cd figure is 0.235 compared to a modern average around 0.29 for a car of its size.

As well as making the car as slippery and light as possible, the design team also focused on thermal energy management and electrical consumption to hit their sub-50g/km target.

While a wind tunnel clearly had a lot to say about the FT-Bh’s shape, there are lots of whimsical little touches that surely aren’t entirely the result of computational fluid dynamics analysis. I’m thinking of the scalloped lamps that adorn the trailing edge of the rear wings, and the tiny perspex fingers that link each front wheel-pod with the car’s boat-like prow. And the flush wheel covers that look like a collection of plastic bats’ wings layered over each other.

Toyota FT-Bh nose

A lot of new cars were launched in Geneva this year, and I only had a few hours at the show due to a cancelled outbound flight. But I took the time to stand and let the FT-Bh sink in. To my mind, Toyota’s lithe new concept is vastly more significant than a new V12 Ferrari, no matter how beautiful the Italian exotic might be. I hope the FT-Bh is an ugly duckling with a bright future.

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