Only last year we brought you the retro-future of the Uniti One electric city car from Sweden. Now Toyota have embraced the oddness with the cumbersome looking e-Palette concept, looking more like your printer’s ink cartridge than a vehicle.
Toyota’s concept is part self-drive bus service and part Amazon-style drone delivery service. As one of the biggest manufacturers in the world, Toyota can risk putting such an ‘out there’ concept in the public eye without losing too much of their street cred; and of course, we must remember that the idea of a ‘concept vehicle’ is to push boundaries…
Ok, so with the groundwork laid, I can safely say that the e-Palette is rather ugly. Function over beauty seems to be the point here, with 4 tiny out of proportion wheels at the far reaches of each of the vehicle’s corners, or even 2 wheels at each corner, making the e-Palette look strangely like a tank that has lost its tracks – and middle wheel section.
The name ‘e-Palette’ becomes clearer once you understand that the idea is to be ferrying products from A to B as well as people. In fact Toyota has gone further than this, imagining the e-Palette as a potential mobile office or hotel room or even a medical facility or perhaps an Italian restaurant – or maybe for use in a slightly more comprehensible car-pooling scheme.
The e-Palette comprises of two sections, a tiny-wheeled chassis, which contains all the electrics to make the vehicle work, and the interchangeable body pods that ‘snap’ on to the chassis enabling the vehicle to be easily customised for its intended use.
Toyota hasn’t necessarily reassured those who may be smirking at the seriousness of this idea by asking us to “think how good e-Palette would be at Burning Man” (Burning Man is an annual festival/gathering in the desert at Black Rock City that attracts the weird, wonderful and outright ostentatious).
The e-Palette is, according to Toyota, a fully automated next generation of a battery-powered vehicle, which is designed to be modular and scalable. In fact, delve a little deeper and you might begin to realise that Toyota is actually serious about this idea and the company has already instigated partnerships with Amazon, Mazda, Uber and Pizza Hut. They also plan to reveal the e-Palette at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – a city and country that are likely to embrace the uniqueness of this project more than many others. Whether or not this will be a working programme at the Olympics rather than a display is not yet known.
Such autonomous vehicles might actually fit into the set up of an Olympic village quite well, but as to whether such vehicles would be ever allowed on our roads along with standard transport is another matter – currently, I suspect not.
Don’t hold your breath on this one, but it will be interesting to see if anything similar from Toyota does appear as part of the Olympic set up in 2020.