The notion of a car which is lighter, more affordable and environmentally friendly continues to elude automakers.
Vehicles like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf come close to the mark, but fall before reaching the ultimate green car goal line. Is a new concept by Toyota known as the Me.We one which might fit the bill? The Japanese car company and Jean-Marie Massaud, a creative designer known for his projects in design and architecture, hope so.
Looking some more like what one might find on a BMW Mini showroom floor, the Toyota Me.We is viewed by those behind it as “an approach based on a genuine shift away from auto industry tradition, to remove excess and suggest a new way of responding to how we behave and the expectations we have.” In this approach, it is noted by Toyota, the end design results in a car that “is rooted primarily in reality and today’s concerns surrounding collective responsibility and individual good citizenship.”
How does the Me.We get to these lofty goals? Through a range of outside the box ideas in automotive creativity. For starters, the vehicle’s tubular aluminium structure “carries interchangeable body panels (doors, wings, bonnet, bumpers, etc.) designed in expanded polypropylene, an ultra-resilient, ultra-light thermoplastic polymer.” These panels can personalized around the driver’s needs, given that this car is envisioned as “a pickup, convertible, off-roader and small city car” that’s flexible to what’s required from it in the moment.
What makes the Me.We design idea environmentally friendly? A number of things, including integration of electric motors into its wheels and batteries under the floor; heating and air conditioning that’s energy efficient; the lightweight and recyclable nature of the polypropylene; the recyclable nature of the aluminium; and the use of bamboo for the floor and horizontal surfaces. All of this is said to make it “an intelligent response to the ecological threats posed by mass production and the growth of the global car fleet.”
Also of note in the concept idea from a technological perspective is the instrumentation. Limited to a single screen above the steering wheel, it
indicates the vehicle speed, the level of battery charge, journey information and navigation instructions delivered via a smartphone. The smartphone itself is mounted below the single screen and provides occupants the ability to create their own personal environment – communication, music and other apps- as well as controlling the temperature of the cabin air.
There’s no mention this design will ever see the light of day, and one shouldn’t confuse it with the recently unveiled Nissan Friend-Me. Both though are interesting conceptualizations of automobiles which bring elements of the human soul back into their metal frames.