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Toyota MEWE concept is four cars in one

Quirky Toyota MEWE concept aims to eliminate excess through clever versatility

Toyota logo25 Apr 2013

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

TOYOTA has teamed up with European industrial designer Jean-Marie Massaud to create a minimalist concept car that is versatile enough to serve as four vehicles in one.

The Mini-esque ME.WE, unveiled at Toyota’s Paris showroom on the famous Champs-Eleysees as part of a city-wide design exhibition, can be configured as a city car, off-roader, ute and convertible.

It was conceived as a response to “ecological threats posed by mass production and the growth of the global car fleet”.

The name is a reference to individual freedom (me) and responsibility towards society (we).

Toyota says the concept’s goal was to “better accommodate the automotive needs of people by eliminating excess in a package that reconciles driving pleasure with environmental responsibility”.

Built around a recyclable tubular aluminium structure, the ME.WE’s interchangeable body panels are made from lightweight but strong and insulating expanded polypropylene, while the floor and dashboard are made from bamboo.

As a result, Toyota claims the Yaris-sized ME.WE could weigh as little as 750kg – the body panels weighing around 180kg less than steel equivalents at just 14kg.

Inside, a pair of simple bench seats are also made from expanded polypropylene and can be removed for camping, picnics or to increase luggage capacity.

8 center imageA drop-down lower tailgate can be used as a bicycle carrier and enables the ME.WE to function like a ute when carrying long items with the rear seats removed.

Further carrying capacity is offered by the roof, which is glass panel overlaid by wooden decking – allowing light through the gaps – where surfboards can be secured by straps or other items protected by a neoprene cover.

The fixed roof is given a floating look due to the way it overhangs the A-pillar and glass C-pillar and wind-in-the-hair driving can be achieved by rolling down all windows – including the windscreen.

All-wheel drive propulsion comes from four in-wheel motors (as used on the three-wheeled Toyota i-Road concept unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March), fed by underfloor batteries as with the electric version of Toyota’s tiny iQ city car.

A single transparent screen acts as a digital instrument panel, powered by a smartphone docked into the dashboard that also provides navigation, entertainment and climate-control functions through its touchscreen.

Toyota says the project – using existing technologies – has enabled it to “gain insights into the future of the automobile from the perspective of a non-automotive design studio”.

“The cross-pollination of ideas and fresh perspectives are an important part of the creative process as Toyota seeks new solutions for better vehicles.” Mr Massaud said modern cars have “become an accumulation of constraints more than a source of freedom”.

“Our lives and needs require more adaptability, simplicity and lightness … the car of today should be seen as a personal mobility solution that can deliver more.”

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