For the past few months, no automaker has seemed quite as energized as Toyota. Determined to bounce back from disaster-filled years, the Japanese behemoth has launched several successful new models and a passel of attractive concept cars such as the beautiful Lexus LF-LC. This is the Toyota FT-Bh, a hybrid concept at the Geneva Motor Show that gets 134.5 mpg. They can't all be winners.
A decade after the Prius first arrived, no other automaker has managed to produce hybrid vehicles in volumes approaching Toyota -- a tribute to the company's head-start in technology and business acumen. Some of that can been seen in the FT-Bh, conceived to show how to build a Toyota Yaris-sized hybrid for maximum efficiency without using exotic materials that would drive up prices. Weighing a scant 1,700 lbs., and sculpted for aerodynamics, the FT-Bh's power comes from a 1-liter, two-cylinder engine -- a smaller mill than what you find in large motorcycles.
Some of its energy savings seem realistic, like an air conditioner that only blows where passengers are sitting. Other pieces seem less ready for prime time, like the old autoshow trick of replacing rear-view mirrors with cameras. Yet the overall shape looks uncoordinated, from the waffle-cut tail lamps to the grille that's reminiscent of both an Aston Martin One-77 and Droopy Dog. Toyota's already shown it can do attractive hybrids with the NS4 concept from Detroit. The FT-Bh shows that getting more efficient can be a step backward.