Toyota has decided not to move forward with the small stylish A-BAT hybrid pickup concept. Automotive News reported today that the company decided to put the vehicle “on the shelf,” according to Bob Carter, Toyota Division’s general manager—after going as far as requesting bids last fall from suppliers for the hybrid pickup.
If the United States is going to tackle oil use and carbon emissions in any significant way, the country will need to improve the efficiency of pickup-trucks—historically the largest segment and one of the least efficient. The Toyota A-BAT, which stands for “Advanced Breakthrough Aero Truck,” signaled a potentially radical shift in pickup design. The vehicle could have appealed to pickup drivers who seldom load lumber, but want versatility, roominess, and sleek styling. The concept version was loaded with gizmos, like translucent solar panels in the top of the dashboard and Wi-Fi capability.
While the A-BAT would achieve better fuel-efficiency by applying hybrid technology to a four-cylinder engine and an aerodynamic design, General Motors is using its two-mode hybrid system in the full-size 6.0-liter V8 Chevy Silverado Hybrid. The Silverado Hybrid tows 6,100 pounds and delivers fuel economy above 20 mpg. Chrysler will employ a similar approach in the Dodge Ram Hybrid, which uses a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 gas engine and two 60kW electric motors. The Dodge Ram Hybrid is due out in 2010.
Unfortunately, pickup sales have suffered this year from declines in construction and housing. Sales of the Toyota Tacoma are down 37.3 percent so far this year, and the full-size Tundra fell by 55 percent.
Sales of the Chevy Silverado Hybrid pickup—first reported at the beginning of 2009—have been meager. GM sold 7 units in January, 47 in February, and 68 in March.
Perhaps the poor sales in the pickup segment in general, and of the Silverado Hybrid in particular, dissuaded Toyota from moving forward with the A-BAT. “We have a lot of top priorities, and A-BAT is not one of them right now,” said Carter, in an interview with PickupTrucks.com.
Toyota is planning to introduce 10 new hybrids globally by 2012, but based on the decision to hold back the A-BAT, a hybrid pickup will not be among the new gas-electric models.