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Toyota to Show Plug-in Flex-Fuel Hybrid Concept with Double the Fuel Efficiency of the Prius

Sketch of the Toyota 1/X plug-in hybrid.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) will exhibit eight concept and 13 other vehicles at the upcoming 40th Tokyo Motor Show. Among the concepts is the 1/X, (pronounced “one-Xth”), a vehicle that maintains an interior space on par with that of the Prius, with a targeted fuel efficiency that is double that of the Prius and a weight reduced to 420 kilograms (about one third the weight of the Prius).

The 1/X features a 500cc flex-fuel engine and a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Built of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) throughout the body frame to ensure superior collision safety, it sports narrower pillars for a better field of vision.

Other hybrid concepts that Toyota will feature at the show are:

  • Hi-CT. The Hi-CT also is a plug-in hybrid concept, with a AC100V accessory socket that enables stored electricity to be used for a variety of applications.

  • Crown Hybrid Concept. The Crown hybrid concept implements THS II with a two-stage motor speed reduction device that helps achieve higher fuel efficiency, lower CO2 and reductions in other exhaust emissions.

  • FT-HS. A next-generation hybrid sports car, the FT-HS features a hybrid system with a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine.

  • LF-Xh. A specialty Lexus SUV, this concept applies the Lexus Hybrid Drive with a V6 engine in an all-wheel drive powertrain.


daniel billinton

Toyota needs to improve its Prius as the image of the Prius as the market leading low emissions vehcile is starting to be embarrasses by even better and chaper non-hybrid vehicles like the Mini cooper D 104g CO2/km. and the VW polo bluemotion 99g CO2/km.

The lightweighting is definitely a good step in the right direction as excess weight is the major cause of high emissions(as emissions are directly linked to fuel consumption)

However, i find it extremely unlikely that the carbon fibre 'body frame' will make it into production. Carbon fibre composiites are a very labour intensive and costly process compared to pressed steel or aluminium panels and not suited to mass production at all.- hence why carbon fibre is only used to save weight on low volume high end supercars and racing cars.


what happened to Toyota's in-wheel motor in earlier concept cars?

If carbon fibre body frame is difficult for mass-production, that does not mean it is impossible. The level of automation is high in car manufacturing, so the labour intense production of such cars might be automated.

Which aspect doubles the efficiency of the the new concept cars with respect to the Prius? The weight reduction? Or the "plug-in" power-train?


what happened to Toyota's in-wheel motor in earlier concept cars?

If carbon fibre body frame is difficult for mass-production, that does not mean it is impossible. The level of automation is high in car manufacturing, so the labour intense production of such cars might be automated.

Which aspect doubles the efficiency of the the new concept cars with respect to the Prius? The weight reduction? Or the "plug-in" power-train?

daniel billinton

i take your point about the automation of car manufacture though if you compare a steel/alloy panel that is pressed out in under a second compared to waiting for a carbon fibre laminate to cure taking several minutes you can quickly see why carbon fibre is only really applicable to low volume applications.

The 'doubling' of efficiecny seems to be a combination of the reduced weight, the downsizing of the engine to just 500cc (the prius is 1.5 litres) meaning that the electric motor take a bigger share of the load and also the plug in hybrid mode - though the latter aspect is clearly dependant on how much carbon is produced by the electricty generation at the power station.

@ Daniel Billinton -

carbon fiber has indeed only been used in high-end applications so far. However, advances in the automation of composite production may make them feasible for small runs of specialty vehicles featuring extreme fuel economy.

Whether such vehicles are preferable to modest improvements across the board is highly questionable. However, the marketing departments of a number of car makers have decided to compete for the bragging rights of the most fuel-efficient car.


Note that VW CEO Martin Winterkorn confirmed just yesterday - at a steel industry conference, no less - that the 1L-concept developed before F. Piech retired as CEO to join the Board will be revived. Apparently, the original manufacturing cost of EUR 35000 can now be brought down very substantially. He did also say that he doesn't expect high sales volume. The upside is the opportunity to gain experience and, to put pressure on the steel industry to accelerate its innovation in high-strength alloys and ways to connect them to body parts made of other alloys.



Toyota recently announced that carbon fibre wouldn't be used in vehicles to reduce overall CO2 emissions, as the energy required (and CO2 released) to manufacture carbon fibre parts was greatly more than that required to manufacture steel parts. In short, fuel savings from carbon fibre did not repay the extra energy gone into making it (according to their calculations).

They did say that aluminium has a future, though, as the fuel savings for that did offset the extra energy of manufacture.


Save those aluminum cans, y'all, Alcoa will rise agin!

daniel billinton

I agree that carbon fibre is unrealistic for a mass produced vehicle.

furthmore, manufacturers have to make their cars recycleable as they have to pay for the costs of their disposal - and a thermosetting plastic like carbon fibre is completely unrecycleable as it cannot be melted down.

Aluminium may require a lot of energy in the process of electrolysis to purify it from bauxite(aluminium oxide) but like steel and iron oxide, once it is in the metal state it can be recycled indefinitely.

carbon fibre is a great material for super light structures - (I myself have built a carbon fibre vehcile that achieves 4,500mpg) but it isn't practical for mass produced cars where issues of manufacturing speed, recyclablity and also impact resistance are issues

steel and aluminium tend to fold and buckle during a crash which is great at absorbing the kinetic energy - and away from the occupants. By contrast carbon fibre has a 'catastrophic mode of failure' which means that when it faisl it completly fails and disintegrates i. completly inappropriate for man carrying vehicles that have to pass strict safety tests.

Chad Snyder

What about recycled plastic composites, for example? Isn't it too soon to write off composites entirely?

Kelly O'Brien

No one has the bottom line on carbon fiber composites. Certainly, they have their drawbacks in the current state of the technology. But, the technology will develop, and the car of the future will probably be a combination of lightweight steel (or aluminium), plastic, carbon fiber composites and other materials.

As far as JC's comment about carbon fiber's 'catastrophic mode of failure,' a practical part can be built to withstand for more impact than a similar energy absorbing steel part. If the carbon fiber part fails catastrophically, it will be at an impact - no matter what the material - that no human body would survive.

Safety is a matter of design and engineering, as well as materials. Let's keep our options and our minds, open.

fred schumacher

The Trabant should have taught us not to make vehicles out of non-recyclable, non-degradable materials. At least Trabant bodies can be eaten by pigs, which is not true for carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber has very high strength, but no give, and fails catastrophically without warning. Steel has the advantage of crushing, allowing for the dissipation of crash loads.

The auto industry is essentially a steel stamping/forging iron/aluminum casting operation. So far, composites have played a small role in auto manufacture because of that.

Toyota, however, is on the right path: size and weight reduction. But the car has to be recyclable, or our landfills will be overloaded. Automobiles are presently the most recycled objects we manufacture.

Harvey D

One third the weight + one third the engine power = 50% fuel consumption reduction or about 100 mpg.

Could better drive train + better batteries + reduced drag have driven fuel consumption to one third or about 150 mpg?

Aluminium is plentiful and since it can be recycled over and over again it is a very sustainable an appropriate product for car parts.

Ben Kaun

We all laugh at Trabi for its terrible performance and durability, but hey, maybe the East Germans had it right with a car that rots to pieces and safely returns to the earth. The environmental record of the Soviets is not so good overall, however.


All the talk about Carbon Fiber composites being difficult to produce are partly correct. The material to be used in the 1/X is Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, if on re-reads the article. Thus simplifying production. Some of the difficulties in carbon fiber production is the shape of the product. This 1/X frame will basically (I said BASICALLY) be plastic with Carbon Fiber rods running through it. These "rods" will come in only a few sizes and be simple round or slightly egg shaped straight "rods". Easy to mass produce, especially after the typical "new process" learning curve (which is currently under way).


I need to add one more comment regarding the 'catastrophic mode of failure' from the gentleman who built the "4500 mpg vehicle". Again I do believe everyone missed the fact that this is "Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic" (CFRP), not JUST Carbon Fiber. The plastic greatly increases the durability/strength of the Carbon Fiber and the Carbon Fiber greatly increases the strength of the plastic. The end result is a material that is extremely resilient, high impact absorption and great resistance to "breaking/cracking/bending". Excellent properties for a car frame!

Michael McMillan

The argument seems to have devolved into the equivelent of the discussion in the construction industry of:
plywood vs. oriented strand board

Plywood in general is strong and looks good.
Oriented strand board is fairly strong, doesn't look good, and is very very cheap.

By the way, in recent years, carbon fiber has both gotten much cheaper, and much stronger. This innovation has primary been financed due to the need for carbon fiber in wind blade turbines.


Anybody heard whether the folks at Loremo.com have made progress on their plastic car? They take some radical approaches to get the weight down and try to make it safe. While I can believe it flexes well, I'm not sure it dissipates energy well.

I continue to expect that a car with a predominantly carbon fiber and thermoplastic frame will have shock absorbers and high strength steel in the crumple zones to dissipate maximum energy for front and rear collisions. I'm less clear on what can be done for side impacts. There, perhaps the stiffness of carbon fiber would be all goodness for the passengers, because there's not much crumple zone anyway.

The Loremo is perhaps too quirky for the mass market, but if it is cheap enough, there will probably be some demand in Europe. They are estimating 15,000 Euros for a tiny 4-seat vehicle that gets 157 mpg.

fred schumacher

Is the "carbon fiber reinforced plastic" (CFRP) a thermoplastic or is it a thermoset plastic? There is a huge difference. Thermoplastic is recyclable, thermoset is not.

Standard terminology for fiberglass is to call it FRP (fiber reinforced plastic). Fiberglass is a thermoset composite. Are you sure that the carbon fiber is being placed in a thermoplastic? Every use I've seen so far for carbon fiber is in a thermoset composite.

Stan Peterson

I'm amazed that all of you Earth firsters, would not be up in arms about building non-recyclable cars. What kind of concept vehicle is that?

Now I would expect such a Delphic pronouncement from the the knot heads at the RMI, which don't let reality intrude.

But I expect better of the knowledgeable people that post here.

Carbon fiber is NOT RECYCLABLE, today.

Say it again.

Carbon fiber is NOT RECYCLABLE, today.

You can't even burn it is a coal power plant or cement kiln. The toxins generated are just too severe.

What do you want to do with millions of scrap Carbon fiber car-bodies?


Hi All,

The Fiberforge process uses a Thermoplastic matrix. So the resin is recyclable. Just melt the thermoplastic out in a nitrogen gas enviorment. The problem then is the fiber itself. Fiberforge is using Victrex PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone). Which is a tough plastic. Machinists in the company I work for try to avoid it. Adding the fiber makes the part tough and strong.

The parts are formed with simple vacuum die tools while the Thermoplastic is in a plastic state. The Carbon Fiber is embedded into plastic by being squeezed inbetween sheets of thermoplastic.

They say the process is cheaper than steel bodies up to several tens of thousands of units. Because it avoids the needs for large steel stamping equipment and the very expensive, hard to make, machined hardened steel stamping dies.

The question has to be asked WOULD we have millions of scrap Cabon Fiber car bodies? If the stuff does not rust, maybe one would come in to a dealarship and just have the running gear and drive train replaced. The thermoplastics being used are quite durable, compared to what was available only 30 years ago. Keeping the paint intact (to avoid UV damage) would be much more important with such a car body, however.

What I do not like about this Toyota design is all the clear panels. Is this not all about Green House effect? That design is a rolling hot-house! Put a insulated roof on it!


Considering how Toyota is highly critical of other carmakers for making pie-in-the-sky hybrid concepts, they don't seem too concerned about doing the same thing themselves.

fred schumacher

If the carbon fiber reinforcement within a thermoplastic matrix is pure carbon fiber without thermoset resins or fillers, then it could be possible to look at recycling the carbon fiber from a different perspective. (The thermoplastic component is no problem.)

If structural members could be standardized within the industry, reuse (after inspection) of structural carbon fiber into new product could be possible. This would require a paradigm shift in how we design and manufacture.

Carbon fiber is very fatigue resistant. It has the lowest loss of strength through millions of flexing cycles of any common structural material. Ironically, the next best material for fatigue resistance is wood. However, when it fails, there's no warning. There would have to be sensors built in to give warning of micro-cracks.

Yeah, all that glass is a problem. That long, low-sloped window is also unnecessary. The Daimler bionic boxfish project has shown that a coefficient of drag of 0.19 can be achieved with a blunt front and boxy shape. It's the rear of the car that is most critical for reducing drag.

san rodriguez

The plug in version will burn the emissions at the plant too, what about clean energy, renovable energy. Every day more people are interested in enviromental issues (global warming).


If the carbon fiber and thermoplastics were being produced from biomass feedstocks, would recyclability really be a problem?

At worst, you pyrolize the old bodies and turn them into liquid fuel...

McLaren/Mercedes seems to have worked out a workable solution for front crash structure, their SLR is made from CF, "Mercedes-Benz exploits these qualities by incorporating two 620-millimetre longitudinal members made from carbon fibre in the front structure of the new SLR. These absorb the entire energy of the crash in a defined head-on collision, leaving the passenger cell largely undamaged." - http://www.seriouswheels.com/cars/top-Mercedes-SLR-McLaren.htm

In addition, World Rally Championship cars use carbon-fiber door plates for occupant side-impact protection. They seem to work pretty well.


Stan's worried about carbon fiber waste but not nuclear waste.


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