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Toyota's ultralight, multifunctional ME.WE mini-EV concept debuts in Paris

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April 24, 2013

The Toyota ME.WE concept

The Toyota ME.WE concept

Image Gallery (9 images)

The auto world's attention may still be tied up in China, but Toyota is hoping to pull it westward. Debuted earlier today at the Le Rendez-vous Toyota, Toyota’s brand experience center on the Champs Elysées in Paris, the ultralight ME.WE is a concept car that strips the automobile down to its basic core in an attempt to reframe consumer expectations.

The ME.WE name reminds us of the recently premiered "Friend-ME" from Nissan, and is framed in a similarly social way. "The concept’s name expresses its simultaneous concern for personal well-being (ME) and that of others (WE)," Toyota explains.

Conceived with the help of French designer Jean-Marie Massaud, the ME.WE takes a simpler approach to automobiles, unencumbered by traditions and expectations. Toyota explains that it sought to take words like "passion" and "status" out of the auto design equation, creating something built with a less is more ethos, or as Toyota puts it "transition from the culture of “more” to the culture of "better."

It sounds to us like Toyota is trying to abandon, if only for an instant, the contradiction of building and hyping hybrids and electric cars, all the while stuffing the greater line-up full of unnecessary electronics, heavy materials, inefficient technologies and luxury amenities, which add tens and hundreds of pounds, decreasing ranges and fuel economies. The ME.WE is a simpler conceptualization of the automobile – a means of getting driver, passengers and belongings from A to B as opposed to a hyper-personalized "home away from home."

Toyota says that its road-bound golf cart weighs 1,653 pounds (750 kg) thanks to build elements like the tubular aluminum structure and recyclable polypropylene body panels. It defines that weight as about 20 percent lighter than the typical steel-based "supermini." Helping to ensure that the car doesn't stray from its target weight, Toyota envisions it being an "anti-excess," no-extras package.

The ME.WE shares the same in-wheel motor system as the i-ROAD concept. Toyota's vision of the tiny, low, plastic minicar as an "off-roader" seems laughable, but the in-wheel powertrain does give the car four-wheel-drive capabilities.

With the battery pack mounted under the floor, as in the iQ EV, the ME.WE has more internal passenger and cargo space than you'd expect from a minicar. To add versatility to that deceiving amount of space, the car shifts between hatchback, convertible and pick-up formations.

Toyota mentions the car taking on the form of a convertible, but it's not clear from its materials if the roof actually removes. It may simply be referring to the "cabriolet-like" feel created by the roll-down windshield.

The pick-up formation is fleshed out a little better. An extending rear panel turns the trunk into a pick-up-like bed for hauling larger loads. The rear bench folds down and slides under the front seats via a rail system, adding more capacity. The bench can also be removed completely and used as standalone seating for picnics, tailgating and other applicable occasions.

The Toyota ME.WE concept

The driver's seat is kept simple with basic controls and a single screen for reading vehicle speed, battery charge, journey information and navigation instructions. Toyota cuts out the complex computer hardware and electronics by relying on the driver's smartphone as the brain that provides navigation and entertainment features. Cabin temperature is regulated with a combination of a low-energy air pump and heated seats, keeping things light and low consumption.

Some of the elements of the ME.WE are a bit silly and out there, but the idea of cutting through all the crap in an industry that is always quick to congratulate itself for doing little things for the environment while continuing to do plenty against it seems like a great starting point. In a world that appears to be growing increasingly apathetic about owning and driving cars, consumers may just be ready to embrace that type of message. Hopefully Toyota and others come up with more vehicle ideas from a similar school of thought.

The photos in the gallery do a poor job of highlighting all the functions and equipment of the ME.WE, but the video below shows its various configurations and takes you on a journey through the thought process behind it.

Source: Toyota

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
15 Comments

I wish they would actually produce something like this instead of just doing concepts.

If they could produce this and keep it below $20,000 aud I would buy it, I like small cars but throw in the versatility and electric yes please.

Even a petrol powered version in the mid to low teens would appeal.

Gary Bonney
24th April, 2013 @ 08:43 pm PDT

It's a great idea IF they can pull it off. Doesn't make any sense if they get through it, and it's 15k dollars. Plenty of cars out there now that can do that. I don't need a motor to roll up my windows or do most anything else.

Give me a basic car, with a heater for cold days, I'm good. Too much junk crowding cars now. Which is why the Elio motors trike is so on target.

VoiceofReason
24th April, 2013 @ 09:08 pm PDT

re; Gary Bonney

$20,000 probably wont cover the batteries.

Slowburn
24th April, 2013 @ 10:14 pm PDT

VoiceofReason > Give me a basic car, with a heater for cold days, I'm good. Too much junk crowding cars now

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dacia_Logan

Freyr Gunnar
25th April, 2013 @ 01:40 am PDT

@voiceofreason: Yepp, basic car for basic money, that's the way. I'd sure buy one if it was in the 20.000$ region.

@slowburn: Nope, I do already HAVE one electric car that is built on a tubular aluminum structure and recyclable body panels, and I know for sure the batteries for a 100 mile range are about 8000$ (consumer price, including VAT!). Mine does only weigh 550kg though. Add a few kilograms for extras and increased safety, and make the battery 10.000$, that would still leave 10.000 for the car: That should be enough, as I can walk over to the dealership next door and buy a brand new gas guzzling station wagon for 8.500 ready to run anytime I like.

It's not that it is impossible to design and produce, it's they do not really WANT to put them on market just yet. Car manufacturers do not make much money on the car itself: Everybody can make a car nowadays, but it's the extras that set them apart from the competition and create the profit margin. No extras - No car. It's that simple.

martinkopplow
25th April, 2013 @ 02:40 am PDT

I really like the industrial styling on the bodywork. Really distinct looking vehicle.

pATREUS
25th April, 2013 @ 03:28 am PDT

Interesting idea to make the body panels from polypropylene. I wonder what this will do to the drag coefficient? The correct texture may actually decrease the drag.

Nice concept.

Riaanh
25th April, 2013 @ 03:53 am PDT

It'd make the perfect around town car for us. Our short term goal is one ice car and one EV. I think my wife and I would argue over who gets to drive this or the Infinity (the EV going to the winner) :-) I've been a car nut long enough to be skeptical anything like this will ever see production, though. Too bad - the market needs something EV, affordable, versatile, and practical.

Toyota, in the off chance you're listening, bring it to us and I'll vote YES with my wallet...

Vince Pack
25th April, 2013 @ 06:52 am PDT

Let's see, light weight aluminum frame, composite body panels, electric batteries, minimal interior extras. Looks like a Aptera without all that nasty aerodynamics and with added weight and a lot of extra ugliness! Gee if only a American company would do this, oh yeah, we did, then we didn't support it and it was sold to the Chinese!

Jerry Peavy
25th April, 2013 @ 09:41 am PDT

I've been waiting for something like this. i wish they'd produce it.

Grainpaw
25th April, 2013 @ 06:46 pm PDT

re; Jerry Peavy

If the people behind Aptera had been competent enough to put good enough into production rather than trying to achieve perfection they probably wouldn't have failed. Unless their plan was to defraud investors in which case their plan probably worked.

Slowburn
25th April, 2013 @ 07:53 pm PDT

I keep thinking, "It reminds me of a mini, but how can this be as the mini looked good?"

Bill Gresham
26th April, 2013 @ 01:35 am PDT

"Toyota cuts out the complex computer hardware and electronics by relying on the driver's smartphone as the brain that provides navigation and entertainment features."

Smartphone OS become outdated in a short time. Smartphones get infected by viruses and can be hacked. Why this need to stick a smartphone as the Car's computer? Someone thought this would be a nice gimmick? I thought Toyota was a serious manufacturer. Now, I will just be a bit more skeptical.

Nantha Kumar Nithiahnanthan
26th April, 2013 @ 09:50 am PDT

re; Nantha Kumar Nithiahnanthan

The smartphone doesn't communicate with the car's electronics.

Slowburn
26th April, 2013 @ 03:45 pm PDT

give us some basic,good cars,lightweight,ultra efficient,gas,diesel,electric.Why not a 4 wheel tilting enclosed motorcycle,fun,aerodynamic for huge fuel or increased range of a electric powered vehicle.VW had the bus,what a great vehicle,Toyota had a van,i loved,but it was never to make it too America.Where's all the useful vehicles,camp,tilter's,etc.

Thomas Lewis
11th May, 2013 @ 05:31 am PDT
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