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Toyota FT-Bh: Our ugly hybrid car future (photos)

Toyota declares the triumph of function over form at the 2012 Geneva auto show, with a frightful-looking future hybrid car. The FT-Bh is an ugly hybrid runabout with extremely good aerodynamics and estimated fuel economy over 100 mpg.

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Wayne Cunningham

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At the 2012 Geneva auto show, Toyota revealed a new hybrid concept. The project required the use of current, inexpensive materials and Toyota's own technology to produce a real-world, affordable, and economical car.

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The result is far from pretty, as this front view photo attests. To achieve its very impressive 0.235 coefficient of drag, even better than the Prius' 0.25, Toyota had to give it this oddly curved hood and low bodywork, making it look like a submarine.

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Under the hood is a 1-liter two-cylinder engine using direct injection and high compression, mated to the Toyota hybrid drive system. Toyota replaced its standard nickel metal hydride battery pack with lithium ion cells to save weight. Toyota says the FT-Bh would burn 2.1 liters per 100 kilometers of travel, equivalent to 112 mpg.

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As part of the project, Toyota challenged its engineers to make the FT-Bh more economical, even down to initial price, than the Yaris equipped with a 1-liter engine. This concept clearly outdoes the Yaris on fuel economy, and initial cost is controlled by using standard materials, such as a steel body shell.

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At the same time Toyota was keeping costs down, it was also reducing weight on the FT-Bh. Without using carbon fiber or advanced plastics, Toyota managed to keep the weight down to 1,733 pounds, very light for a modern car.

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Toyota points out that by reducing the weight of cabin materials, it was able to make additional weight savings throughout the car. A lighter cabin means lighter suspension elements.

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The FT-Bh features its share of concept car elements. For example, it uses cameras instead of side view mirrors. But that touch helps reduce drag. With this car's five-passenger and hatchback design, it could show the way for a future replacement for the Prius. Such a new model would get excellent fuel economy, but also strike new heights in the uglification of the automobile.

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