January 14, 2008 Toyota rolled out a concept vehicle with direct roots to its heritage at NAIAS this week. The hybrid A-BAT is positioned below the Toyota Tacoma, and integrates truck features with car fundamentals, providing roominess, style and our favourite characteristic, versatility. The compact pickup architecture is designed to be equally as capable of manoeuvring the suburbs as dirt roads, as comfortable for long commutes as it is for road trips, as accommodating of outdoor toys as home improvement supplies.
The A-BAT concept was developed by the TMS Advanced Product Strategy group and Calty, Toyota's North American-based, research and design center located in Newport Beach, California. Together, they identified a buyer group whose unique combination of lifestyle activities and vehicle needs required a vehicle that as of now is not available in the market place. The team created a new genre of compact vehicle with good fuel economy, advanced functionality, maneuverability, unique styling within its segment, and a durable package suitable for an active lifestyle. Advanced styling was also key in making the A-BAT appropriate for today's market.
The A-BAT concept rides on a unibody platform for car-like handling when navigating city streets and crowded parking lots, and smooth ride quality for highway trips and the everyday commute. In addition, its lightweight package coupled with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology is designed to deliver excellent fuel economy. Translucent solar panels in the top surface of the instrument panel capture sunlight and convert it into energy, showcasing the vehicle's "green" character.
The A-BAT's unique aerodynamic exterior was crafted by Calty Project Chief Designer Ian Cartabiano and Creative Designer Matt Sperling. They integrated Toyota's design philosophy, "Vibrant Clarity" into the exterior by keeping the design forward-looking, crisp and functional.
The concept's unique look is a combination of the large body surfaces, intersecting tight surface planes, crisp lines and the trapezoidal profile. The A-BAT's 19-inch wheels sit at the vehicle's corners creating a tough and ready stance.
"We studied the 'trapezoid' silhouette from the side profile of the Toyota Prius and applied it to create an entirely new truck image," said Sperling. He further enhanced the trapezoidal profile by placing the cab forward, and using fast angle A- and C-pillars, shortened overhangs, and a sleek front window.
"The bold grille showcases Toyota's reverse trapezoid and T-face theme in a new way," explained Cartabiano. "The bed is defined by the C-pillar and is clearly separated from the cab to allow it to stand out from the rest of the profile."
"The image of a NATO all-terrain military truck inspired us to keep the occupants as far forward as possible to maximize rear bed capacity in this compact package," stated Sperling.
The A-BAT features a four-foot bed, but has more flexibility than the standard pickup truck. A translucent roof panel slides open to allow for tall cargo in the cab. When the pass-through midgate is folded down into the cab the bed lengthens an additional two feet. An open tailgate provides an additional two-foot of bed length. The A-BAT offers customers the versatility of hauling a standard 4x8 sheet of plywood one day, then taking a family on a camping trip to the lake the next.
The bed has features perfect for work and play. These include tailgate lighting for illuminating the load in the bed, a first aid kit and flashlight integrated into the tailgate, sliding tie downs, and an AC power outlet. Items such as sports and leisure equipment can be stored in the lockable drawers in the bed walls. The concept also has additional storage that is accessible through sliding doors conveniently placed in and outside of the truck bed. For even more storage capacity the A-BAT comes with a large sliding drawer beneath the bed, accessible without opening the tailgate.
Although the A-BAT is rugged and has a spirited exterior, the interior team worked to create a modern look for the interior.
"We balanced colors and fabrics that were both bright and vibrant, but also captured an urban-rugged feel with their energetic and geometric qualities," said Alan Schneider, Project Chief Designer.
"The inspiration behind the exposed structure on the interior was drawn from high-end mountain bike frames," added Daryl Harris, Senior Creative Designer. "We applied lightweight construction materials, such as carbon fiber and aluminum, to the instrument panel, console and seats for increased structural rigidity while reducing mass."
The rigid, yet sculptured alloy center console runs between the two front seats and houses a portable power pack. The battery pack offers both AC and DC for a wide variety of applications including powering tools, electrical gear while camping, a laptop computer, small appliances or assisting a vehicle jump start.
The door trim, shoulder, armrest and instrument panel pads and seat cushions are made of a tough, lightweight and comfortable material that can be selected for personalization. In addition the colors are coordinated to enhance the sleek interior environment. The center console and door pockets feature carbon fiber components to complete the durable and modern look.
The four-passenger A-BAT offers numerous seating and storage configurations. In addition to the rear seats folding down with the midgate to extend the cargo bed length, the rear seat cushions can retract beneath the cargo bed to increase rear cab cargo flexibility. A removable storage tray beneath the rear seat offers tie downs and organizing compartments to secure loose cargo.
Inside the A-BAT has a retractable portable navigation unit with a seven-inch diagonal screen and Wi-Fi Internet. Other advanced features include a port for portable device assistant synchronization and a hard drive for digital music.
Both the driver and front passenger have a large multi-information display screens on the IP to view the status of their high tech gadgets and HVAC and audio settings.
The solar panels on the dash recapture energy from the sun to assist in the charging of the navigation unit, portable power pack and backlit information displays.
"This concept is the next evolution of the compact truck," said Kevin Hunter, president, Calty Design Research. "We were able to create a compact truck that's utilitarian, has an original profile compared to other pickup trucks, has a 'small, but tough' character and is economical to operate. The A-BAT is a fun-to-drive, practical package that reflects Toyota's environmental sustainability message."