The Toyota A-BAT (Advanced Breakthrough Aero Truck) interests us because it injects some much-needed new thinking into the pickup sector. The A-BAT offers substantial versatility, and yet it fights the gigantism that has become pervasive in the truck market–as evidenced by Toyota’s own Tundra. The trapezoidal styling and high beltline give the A-BAT a big-truck look, but the concept is considerably smaller than the once-compact Tacoma and is about the size of a RAV4.
“We wanted to reinvestigate the compact truck and bring it into modern times,” says Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota’s West Coast design studio. And this at a time when conventional wisdom had given up compact trucks for dead.
The A-BAT is not only RAV4-sized, it also mirrors the popular crossover in its seating position and its unibody construction. Although it features four-wheel drive, the ground clearance is modest (about the same as a Highlander), as it’s optimized for on-road use and urban environments, where today’s pickups are unwieldy.
Toyota is getting more and more mileage out of its hybrid technology, so it is perhaps not surprising to see it here. Paired with a transverse-mounted, four-cylinder engine, the hybrid system has the potential to produce a real breakthrough in pickup fuel economy, which, with a few exceptions, seldom exceeds 20 mpg.
The A-BAT’s other major innovations center around its cargo-carrying abilities. The truck features a midgate that extends the four-foot cargo box two feet into the passenger compartment. Dropping the tailgate adds another two feet of length, allowing the A-BAT to carry four-by-eight-foot building materials. Underbed storage is accessed via a drawer (an idea seen previously on the Dodge Rampage show truck). The four-seat cab features a large opening over the rear-seat area that allows tall items to poke through; and the rear seat-bottom cushions disappear backward, under the bed, rather than simply folding up.
“The truck market is ripe for a change,” claims A-BAT chief designer Ian Cartabiano. He might hear some arguments from Honda dealers, whose lots are full of unsold Ridgelines, but perhaps a less expensive, more economical, and more compact offering would find a new audience. Here’s hoping Toyota is brave enough to try.
Also making its debut in Detroit was the A-BAT concept, a vehicle which signals a return to Toyota’s compact pickup roots. The A-BAT concept uses a four-cylinder, gas-hybrid powertrain for low emissions while providing modern versatility, roominess and style.
The vehicle is designed for a buyer group whose unique combination of lifestyle activities and vehicle needs requires a compact pickup offering good fuel economy, advanced functionality, maneuverability and unique styling in a durable package suitable for an active lifestyle.
1. The A-BAT’s rear seatback can fold down, allowing the cargo bed to expand, Chevy Avalanche-style.
2. The cargo hold features pull-out storage bins in the side walls and a first-aid kit in the tailgate. Underbed storage is accessed via a rear drawer.
3. On top of the dashboard, the A-BAT has a solar panel that charges a portable battery pack. Toyota is studying this idea as a way to keep a car’s battery charged when it is parked for long periods.
Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., returns to its compact pickup truck roots with its latest concept vehicle A-BAT. The environmentally advanced A-BAT provides modern versatility, roominess and style in a compact pickup architecture. The A-BAT made its debut in Detroit at the 2008 North American International Auto Show today.
“Driving from beyond the suburbs to the city is a way of life for many people,” said Kevin Hunter, president, Calty Design Research, Inc. “We’ve taken Toyota’s truck heritage to a different level by envisioning a vehicle capable of
maneuvering the suburbs as well as dirt roads. This compact truck is as comfortable for long commutes as it is for road trips. It can accommodate outdoor toys and home improvement supplies. Plus, customers benefit from the hybrid powertrain’s low emissions and fuel economy.”
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, Calif. 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. Positioned below the Toyota Tacoma, A-BAT integrates truck features with carfundamentals for an efficient and modern package.
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 4×8 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 Hunter. “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.”
TOYOTA A-BAT CONCEPT PICKUP TRUCK
Four cylinder gas engine with Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive¨
Overall Length: 181.3
Overall Width: 74.4
Overall Height: 64.0
Bed Length: 48.0
Bed Length with Midgate down: 72.0
Bed Length with Midgate and Tailgate down: 96.0
Wheel Size: 19-inch