“We wanted this car to be in harmony with the environment and human beings. This is about the Way of the Car, much like a tea ceremony or flower arrangement.”
Toyota’s Tetsuya Kaida has a dream job—literally. As the creator and manager of the company’s “Business Revolution Corporate Value Project” at company headquarters in Japan, he dreams up vehicle concepts that integrate car design, global lifestyle trends, Japanese ancient art and culture, fantasy and nature.
Kaida created the project in January 2007 (after working for Toyota for nearly 14 years), and almost immediately started talking about making cars out of unconventional materials, like seaweed. “In the future, I’m sure we will have access to new and better materials, such as those made from plants…In fact, I want to create such a vehicle from seaweed because Japan is surrounded by the sea. This is my dream.”
Kaida was speaking about seaweed cars again this week at the Melbourne International Motor Show, where he discussed a potential plant-based version of the company’s 1/X (pronounced one-Xth)— a Prius-looking plug-in hybrid concept design, which uses a super-light body, 500cc gas-powered engine, and lithium ion batteries. He says such a car could be in showrooms within 15 years.
That’s just one of many of Kaida’s dreams, based on a string of futuristic concept models.
Take the Wheel, Grasshopper
Toyota took inspiration from the tall Yakusugi cypress tree for its RIN vehicle—a kind of meditation chamber on wheels revealed at the 2007 Tokyo Auto Show. To blend in with its surroundings, the vehicle has a transparent floor, and huge windows and doors that slide open like Japanese screens. Green glass filters ultraviolet and infrared light. Seats are designed to maintain good back posture and there’s an oxygen-level conditioner and humidifier. The dashboard meter even “aligns with the driver’s psychological state” as part of something Toyota calls a “mood-training steering control.”
Toyota also revealed the Hi-CT, plug-in hybrid mini-truck at the 2007 Tokyo Show. The name stands for “Hi Ride City Truck.” The visual design was reportedly inspired by the form of a gorilla.
Connecting Technology and Environment
Last September, Kaida collaborated with a team of Chicago-based fashion designers to produce clothing based on the company’s I-Real concept—an armchair on wheels capable of 20 miles per hour. Four young designers were selected for the project, and then flown to Japan to interact with the I-Real engineering team and to learn about Japanese culture. One of their stops was to soak up the serenity of the 1,000-year-old Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya.
“The fashions are marvelous,” said Mr. Kaida. “They capture the interconnectivity of man to his environment and the essence of technology for the sake of human betterment.”
According to Kaida, the core philosophy of the 1/X and other nature-inspired Toyota concept vehicles is the idea of “bunsoo” or living within one’s means. “Look at cars on the street. They look arrogant, overbearing and noisy. We wanted this car to be in harmony with the environment and human beings.” He added, “This is about the Way of the Car, much like a tea ceremony or flower arrangement.”