The Toyota 1/X (sometimes Toyota 1X) (pronounced one-Xth) an unusual but promising concept.
Spartan Prospect - Toyota 1/X
31 Oct, 2007
New Toyota 1/X
A fuel-efficient hybrid car as a Spartan prospect? You must think that I am insane. Let's see what I am on about and be the judge of my sanity.
TOKYO - Toyota says the name of its 1/X compact hybrid concept should be pronounced "one-Xth," as in "this vehicle weighs only 1/Xth that of other vehicles in its class".
With the 1/X (pronounced "one-Xth") concept vehicle Toyota's intention is to "redefine from its very roots the idea of what it means to be environmentally considerate". The concept vehicle, that debuted at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, has a design that aims to "harmoniously coexist with people and society", and weighs only "1/Xth" that of other vehicles in its class. So while much of the focus was on the powertrain, the company's designers and engineers also paid attention to space and weight efficiency, as well as safety.
Just think of the 1/X as the latest iteration in a long line of gas-electric vehicles from a hybrid pioneer.
Toyota says the 1/X was intended to "redefine from its very roots the idea of what it means to be environmentally considerate."
The 1/X has the same interior space as a Prius, but weighs only 420 kg (926 pounds) - about 1/3 of the weight of a Prius - and aims to double its fuel efficiency (a combined city/highway rating of 50 km/L or 90-plus mpg). That's not to say it is the new Prius, but one derivation of what tomorrow's Prius family could serve up. 1/X comes to the show as a small, light, ultra economy concept, offering the same cabin space as today's Prius, but in a very different format. The 1/X's body design, especially that gently curving roofline, certainly has the Prius house style about it, but what's underneath it is radically different.
With the reduction in mass, only a 0.5-liter flex-fuel gasoline/ethanol engine is used instead of the current 1.5-liter, four-cylinder applied in the Prius. The upshot is a claimed doubling to about 100 mpg of fuel economy, the Prius is currently rated at 46 mpg combined on the newly revised 2008 EPA ratings.
The Toyota Prius debuted at Tokyo a decade ago. With more than one million hybrids now sold - 60 percent in the U.S. market - Toyota has clearly refuted the conventional notion that Japanese makers are mere copiers of others automotive designs. Toyota wants to expand its success. So the claimed 1/X improvements should be considered more than auto-show hype.
In order to accomplish the improvements, the packaging is clever, complicated, and expensive. The power unit is located beneath the rear seat for what is called a mid-ship (Prius is Front driven), rear-wheel-drive configuration. The unit-body is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic that is light yet strong enough to provide occupant crash protection.
The 1/X also differs from the Prius in that it's a plug-in hybrid, PHEV, allowing the battery pack to be recharged by plugging it into a recharging station. The prototype PHEV system works the same as the Prius, switching from electric motor only mode, to gas-engine only, to a combined gas-electric operation. A regenerative braking system helps keep the battery charged.
The alleged advantage is that the PHEV's prototype battery pack is capable of storing higher levels of electricity, supplied by "plugging into the grid" for recharging. Since the 1/X has significantly more electric power in reserve, the vehicle is capable of operating in pure-electric mode for longer periods of time and at much higher speeds than the current Prius.
The hybrid powertrain in the 1/X uses plug-in technology, with a "tiny" 500cc gas engine that is mounted beneath the rear seat and drives the rear wheels. Note that "tiny" should be put in perspective: about 1200 cc per 1000 kg and add to this the power of the electric engine.
Toyota probably won't welcome the comparison, but the 1/X takes the rear engine/rear-drive format from the tiny Mitsubishi i minicar and gives it a new twist. The 1/X sports a tiny, two-cylinder 500 cc 'flexible fuel' engine under its rear seat. This links to a plug-in hybrid system to deliver outstanding economy and clean emissions.
Simply a mock-up at the show, 1/X comes with a lightweight, carbon-fibre frame and very little in the way of body.
The rear-engine format clearly helps with the packaging breakthrough and smooths a lot of hurdles with pedestrian safety regs along the way.
All the same, fully laden and with only 500 cc hybrid power at its disposal, the 1/X may not be a stellar to drive, although in an extreme lean and green concept like this, that's not really the point. Again, this needs to be put in perspective: a car that only weighs 420 kg and is rear wheel drive should be a blast to drive. Add to this the instant pulling power available from the electric motor and you might see what I am on about.
Seating four, the 1/X is about 10mm narrower and 12mm lower than a Yaris, but also about 15mm longer.
The body is made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) for excellent rigidity and structural safety. The high-strength material also permits thinner pillars, providing a better field of vision for the driver.
The Toyota 1/X Concept is a futuristic vision that redefines the concept of environment-friendly vehicles. It has a total weight of just 420 Kg, thanks to the extensive use of advanced materials such as CFRP.
The technical features include a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a displacement of only 500cc that allows charging from an external power source and a longer electric-motor cruising distance. It also adopts Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV) Technology: vehicles capable of running on gasoline and ethanol, etc., mixed in arbitrary proportions.
Power for the Toyota 1/X comes from a 500cc fossil fuel engine working in conjunction with an electric motor which can be charged from the by plug-in to a source of electricity. Both the engine and the electric motor are located beneath the rear seat giving the 1/X a mid-engine, rear-drive configuration.
The body frame makes use of light but highly rigid carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP), increasing collision safety, while allowing narrower pillars for a better field of vision.
This high-tech car combining a frugal engine that is placed mid-ship, rear wheel drive, very light due to applying extensive weight reduction from scratch should put this car in a rightfull place as a Spartan prospect. Toyota says that there are substantial gains in fuel economy and a major reduction in total tailpipe emissions of smog-forming gases and CO2, compared to its current system.
Drawbacks are it's concept car status, the costs of CFRP, and some of Toyota's own sceptic remarks.
The fact that the Prius never needs to be plugged in has been one of the primary selling points with buyers. And Toyota remains skeptical about the near-term production suitability of the lithium ion batteries needed for the higher power densities plug-ins require when compared with the production of the nickel metal hydride batteries Prius uses.
* Maintains an interior space on par with that of the Prius, with an aimed-for fuel efficiency that is double and a weight reduced to 420 kilograms (about one third the weight of the Prius).
* Combines fossil fuel consumption-reducing FFV* technology and a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a displacement of only 500cc that allows charging from an external power source and a longer electric-motor cruising distance; thus, in addition to being adapted for energy diversity, emits less CO2 and contributes to the prevention of air pollution.
* Locates the power unit beneath the rear seat (for a midship, rear-wheel-drive system) to contribute to an innovative and highly efficient package.
* Adopts light but highly rigid carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) throughout the body frame to ensure superior collision safety, while allowing narrower pillars for a better field of vision.
Some background on some people's worries about safety in this light-weight vehicle that makes some use of the expensive carbon fibre.
SAFETY: I'll use a reference that might be familiar to you, when you're watching Nascar, when a car crashes, you see parts flying off of it and flying everywhere. The car is designed to fly apart and be crumpled instead of the driver inside.
Today's cars are the safest yet. If you think driving in a huge SUV from the 80s is safer than driving a new mid-sized sedan (like a Camry, Accord, Fusion, Sonata etc with full assortment of airbags) than YOU'RE WRONG. The mid-sized sedan might be completely wrecked but you've got a greater chance of surviving the crash. If the older SUV, the vehicle could probably be used to drive your family to your funeral.
Cars now are designed to protect the passenger at all cost. I guess someone came up with the insane notion that the car is less important than its occupants.
Also carbon fiber can be designed, depending on its intended use, for either incredible flexibility or fore incredible strength. That's why carbon fiber is used in applications like F1 cars and new figher jets like the F-22 Raptor.
Just because the car crumples and shatters doesn't mean its unsafe. In most cases it means the opposite.
CARBON FIBRE: The frame isn't made of carbon fiber only. It's made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic. There isn't as much carbon fiber used in the car as you'd see on for example the very costly Carrera GT. If used to reinforce plastics, it's helps structurally for a fraction of the cost of exclusive use of carbon fibre.
If any of you have ever held this material, you'd see it's fairly strong. I've held a piece about 0.6m long, 2cm wide, and 1cm thick. It's very light, but not as feathery as something made of completely carbon fiber. The outer of the material was simply plastic, but the inside had a few strips of carbon fiber woven in. It didn't bend at all, we even had a chance to stand on it between two steps. It very rigid also, twisting was out of the question. The group who produced it said it costs less than a dollar to make the piece, the most expensive bit was of course the carbon fiber. It's still not as cheap as stamping steel, but the production costs are by far cheaper. The most expensive tool the group had for production was the freezer they used to store the carbon fiber. Molding plastic isn't as expensive as casting iron or forging steel.
I think it's a good concept to recreate a material that has the same properties as steel, yet weighs much less and costs less to tool a facility.
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