Occasionally I'll get a question (via e-mail) from a High Speed Stuff podcast listener that makes me continue to think about the issue long after the workday has ended. A question that I received from a listener in Minnesota is a good example.
The sender's name is Dylan and he's from a rural part of the northern state. He told me that most of the people in his community drive pickup trucks as it's an agricultural area. Basically, here's what Dylan had to say: What's the future of pickup trucks? Will there ever be a fuel-efficient pickup truck that can get 40 miles per gallon (17 liters per kilometer), be able to tow at least 15,000 pounds (6,804 kilograms) and haul four or five people at the same time? After all, people will always need trucks, right?
So, that's what I was thinking about as I sat in dense Atlanta traffic late last week. A pickup truck that gets hybrid car-like mileage, yet still maintains all of the benefits of...well, a truck. Seems like a tall order, doesn't it? But that's when I remembered the Toyota A-BAT Hybrid truck.
A-BAT stands for Advanced-Breakthrough Aerodynamic Truck (A-BAT) and it's a compact pickup truck that can carry up to four passengers and uses Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive -- the same system as the Toyota Prius. The HowStuffWorks article (by John Fuller) does a great job of describing the A-BAT, so I won't repeat any of that info here; however, I do want to say that it's definitely worth a few minutes to read the article and learn about this interesting new truck. Because the A-BAT Hybrid is still a concept (more on this in a moment) a few of the vehicle specs are unavailable, so things like actual fuel efficiency numbers and towing and hauling capacities haven't been made public just yet. (At least, the last time I checked they weren't, anyway.)
So, here's the part that may be a little painful for someone (like Dylan?) looking for a fuel-efficient truck...
In September of 2008, Toyota was moving forward with plans to actually produce the A-BAT. By mid April 2009, those plans went away when Toyota made the decision to hold-off on production -- at least for now.
But fuel-efficient truck dreams don't have to die (even if only for a little while) along with the A-BAT production plans. In-wheel motors are providing some hope right now, too. Of course, this technology isn't restricted to trucks, but the Ford Hi-Pa Drive F-150 provides a good example. The all-electric-powered Ford proves that it's possible to give a pickup truck the kind of power it needs to remain useful and efficient at the same time.
So, now that you've had a chance to look at Toyota's A-BAT Hybrid concept truck, would you drive one?