It was to this problem that Toyota turned their considerable engineering and design talents. Was it possible to create a vehicle that would provide all of the visceral thrills of high speed, top notch handling, and yet still be able to claim environmental responsibility?
While hybrid cars had become notorious for their economy-market platforms, heavy batteries and low power outputs, Toyota had been experimenting with the idea of luxury hybrids in their Lexus division. It was a small step from there to the concept of creating a GT sports car in the tradition of the Supra.
Having been criticized for selling a lineup of cars that contained almost no pure performance vehicles, Toyota decided to kill two birds with one stone and created the FT-HS concept vehicle.
With a claimed 0 to 60 miles per hour time of 4 seconds, the radically styled sport coupe is evocative of both the Ford GT 90 concept and current Lamborghini styling. But where most exotic sports cars guzzle gas, the FT-HS sips – Toyota claims 4 cylinder fuel mileage from the 400 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6 installed in the prototype.
How is this achieved?
Complementing the traditional power plant in the FT-HS is a rear-mounted lithium battery which is charged during braking and provides what Toyota describes as “explosive power” – a computer system decides when to shunt the extra battery power into the drive train to create a burst of acceleration.
Special body panels channel cool air to the rear of the car in order to keep the battery pack at optimal operating temperature. Both engine and battery power are put to the ground via an all-wheel-drive system (although the production version may be rear-wheel-drive only). Toyota didn’t limit the technological wizardry solely to the mechanicals of the FT-HS.
Wherever possible, carbon fiber was used to reduce weight (and increase fuel economy). The roof of the FT-HS is also moveable, sliding back and folding completely flat, giving driver and passenger the pleasure of open-cockpit motoring.
Finally, the entire car is piloted via a drive by wire system, meaning that steering and throttle inputs are electronically transmitted, with no physical linkages from the wheel or the pedals.
Will this prototype make it to dealer’s showrooms? Toyota says they plan on implementing the hybrid technology found in the FT-HS in a street car that will greatly resemble the concept.
They have also stated that the price tag for the 2-seater is likely to be in the $30 000 range – a very competitive offering in a segment not known for value or environmental sensitivity.