The Toyota ME.WE Concept car is the innovative result of a partnership between Toyota European Design & Development (ED2) and Jean-Marie Massaud, the renowned creative designer acclaimed for his visionary projects in design and architecture.
For ED2, which signed a partnership agreement with Studio Massaud in July 2011, it's all about learning from a unique collaboration leading to a project that marks a paradigm shift compared to traditional vehicle design and engineering.
For Jean-Marie Massaud, the ambition is to 'instill' human, economic and environmental challenges into a realistic conception of an 'anti-crisis' car for today.
The shared vision between the design centre of one of the world's largest car manufacturers and the visionary independent designer has produced a unique concept with 3 primary aims:
Pertinence. A passionate but considered vision of the car, rather than simply an intellectualised concept that Jean-Marie Massaud is creating with Toyota. The quest is to deliver an absorbing sensory experience that is adaptable to a wide variety of lifestyles, alongside the essential need for high quality and innovation.
Above all, the vision of Jean-Marie Massaud is that of a car user with a keen eye for personal travel. He puts it this way: "By losing sight of reality and as a result of an idealised approach, the car has become an accumulation of constraints more than a source of freedom. However, 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". In other words, drivers find themselves in a perennial duality: on the one hand, a plethora of promises that support egos and social status through excessive hype about innovation. And, on the other hand, an ongoing frustration with daily constraints.
Based on his discussions with ED2, Jean-Marie Massaud identified a number of inconsistencies in the way we appreciate and understand the car. He then offers counter-arguments to these paradoxes.
He juxtaposes desire with pleasure, status with utility, space with capacity, power with agility, performance with suitability, segmentation with adaptation, and stress with serenity.
With ME.WE, the designer has delivered a solution that is realisable here and now, and which, far from subscribing to excessive technology in the name of 'always more', offers a response that is rooted primarily in reality and today's concerns surrounding collective responsibility and individual good citizenship.
The goal of the Toyota ME.WE is nothing less than to be the summation of these essentially paradoxical challenges. It is not the reinvention of the car, but rather a vehicle for everyone, which adopts a different take on pleasure that is simpler, more appropriate and more realistic (easy to park, adaptable to different lifestyles and delivering maximum pleasure in use): in fact, a real alternative to cars of 'passion' and status.
Until now, no car has been able to resolve the contradictions of real life as well as ME.WE does:
Light and resilient: the tubular aluminium structure of ME.WE carries interchangeable body panels (doors, wings, bonnet, bumpers, etc.) designed in expanded polypropylene, an ultra-resilient, ultra-light thermoplastic polymer
By releasing themselves from the preconceptions that surround the automotive industry, ED2 and Jean-Marie Massaud have been able to pool their expertise to offer a concept car that reflects a quest for change in the world of personal mobility.
In a broader context where the car is more a series of restrictions than pleasures, the Toyota ME.WE puts the road user - whether driver or pedestrian - at the heart of its thinking. It focuses on the desire for freedom, pleasure, emotion and the ability to travel free of constraints - whilst at the same time addressing people's sense of personal responsibility and commitment to good citizenship.
Toyota ME.WE incorporates a modern and global view of the art of travel. Collectively, it forms part of wider considerations about how to adapt to the environmental challenges that now weigh heavily on the future of personal mobility.
Individually, it accommodates the needs of everyone by offering a package 'with no extras'. The Toyota ME.WE considers all these parameters in its quest for intelligent reduction. This 'anti-excess' vehicle is the antithesis of technological escalation, and makes its responses and realism available for the benefit of all.
In short, the Toyota ME.WE Concept embodies the transition from the culture of 'more' to the culture of 'better'.
Intelligent and progressive
ED2 and Jean-Marie Massaud set themselves the goal of doing more and creating better with less. Here, reducing the pool of resources and constraints goes hand-in-hand with increasing capability, quality and pleasure. Its intrinsic creativity and new approach to using materials reconcile pleasure with responsibility.
The Toyota ME.WE has been conceived as an electric car whose motors are integrated into its wheels in the same way as the Toyota i-ROAD, and whose batteries are located under the floor, like the Toyota iQ EV. Thus liberated from traditional packaging constraints, the interior is devoted entirely to the needs of its five passengers and their possessions.
The objectives aimed at reducing CO2 emissions and protecting energy resources called for a different approach to vehicle architecture to ensure weight reduction. To achieve this goal, the Toyota ME.WE has an aluminium structure clad in body panels that have been formed from expanded polypropylene, a lightweight, robust and recyclable material.
Thus, the weight of ME.WE could be only 750 kg - a figure that represents a minimum 20% saving compared to a traditional B-segment car with a steel body. The curb weight saving is mainly due to the difference in mass between body panels made of polypropylene (only 14 kg) and those made in steel.
Friendly: responsible and capable
Depending on its original use and intended secondary use, expanded polypropylene can be 100% recycled. The same is true of aluminium, whilst the bamboo used for the floor and horizontal surfaces has been selected for its aesthetic qualities and its highly renewable character. ME.WE's ease of everyday care - all it needs is a wash - takes its inspiration from the world of boating, as does the interior, the front and rear decks and the roof.
Because it is created from materials that reduce the amount of energy consumed by its use - and therefore CO2 and pollutant gas emissions - and because the natural materials it uses are readily available, the Toyota ME.WE delivers an intelligent response to the ecological threats posed by mass production and the growth of the global car fleet.
Optimistic: positive and realistic
Simplicity of design is matched by ease of use. With an electric motor in each wheel, the Toyota ME.WE Concept can be a two- or four-wheel-drive vehicle with the inherent capability of coping effectively with a range of different terrains, some of which may be inaccessible to a traditional car.
But it is much lighter than today's 4x4 vehicles, whose motive power is transmitted to the wheels by heavier transmission systems.
On board, passengers always take priority over luggage, which can be carried on the roof - protected by a neoprene cover. This cover is housed within the front portion of the roof and can be unrolled to cover securely objects that are placed on the roof.
Additionally, the rear luggage space can be extended and thus transformed into a platform like that of a pickup.
Mounted on rails in the floor, the rear bench-seat can be folded and stored under the front seat. Alternatively, the removable bench seating system can also be used for a picnic on the grass.
The simplicity of design and use is further illustrated by the characteristics of the instrumentation. It is limited to a single screen mounted above the steering wheel that 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.
Heating and air conditioning is delivered by a low consumption heat air pump coupled with electric seat heaters to minimise power consumption.
And, like the experience delivered by a cabriolet, passengers can choose to feel the wind by opening all the windows - even the windscreen.