Honda, Toyota Show Hybrid Concept Cars in Geneva

Designed in European studios, Honda’s hybrid concept car is a 2-door coupe, as opposed to Toyota’s 4-door model unveiled here.

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GENEVA – In back-to-back press conferences, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. reveal hybrid-electric vehicle concepts today at the auto show here.

Toyota’s Hybrid X concept was penned at the auto maker’s ED2 European design studio and presents a future look at how Toyota’s hybrid design language will evolve, using the principles of J-Factor and Vibrant Clarity.

J-Factor refers to Japanese design and culture, while Vibrant Clarity is the design language that expresses this, the auto maker says.

The 4-door, 4-seat Hybrid X is the same size as a conventional family car, Toyota says, with a wheelbase of 110 ins. (280 cm) and a length of 177 ins. (450 cm).

The open-air vehicle has two “U” shapes that are formed by the upper glass frame area. Viewed from above, together they form an “X”, hence the name for the vehicle, Thierry Dombreval, executive vice president-Toyota Motor Europe, tells gathered media.

A unique feature of the Hybrid X’s interior is an interface that allows a driver to “set the ambience,” or control the entertainment, audio, lighting and air conditioning settings via a console-mounted touch screen.

Toyota says it wants to double the number of HEVs it offers, with an eye toward a goal of more than 1 million HEV sales annually by early next decade.

The Honda Small Hybrid Sports Concept alludes to the dedicated HEV Honda is planning to introduce in 2009, with expected global sales of 200,000 units annually, Honda CEO Takeo Fukui says.

The concept car is the first design study that represents Honda’s DNA of fun-to-drive vehicles that also are environmentally friendly, Fukui says.

Honda’s hybrid concept also was crafted at its European design studio, in Offenbach, Germany, but is a 2-door coupe as opposed to Toyota’s 4-door model.

Design elements include an arrow-like nose with a full-width air intake, 1-piece glass roof, short front and rear overhangs, tightly wrapped wheel arches and “folded” edges along the waistline and at the car’s corners, Honda says.

The glass extends rearward and ends in a 3D floating-glass design, which creates another vertical window.

Light-emitting-diode taillights are a floating design and extend the width of the car. Honda says the wheels are 20 ins., providing for low rolling resistance without compromising sportiness.

The vehicle is built on a front-wheel-drive small-car platform and uses Honda’s 4-cyl. Integrated Management Assist hybrid gas-electric engine mated to a continuously variable transmission.

Meanwhile, Fukui says Honda is considering launching its new diesel engine, which uses a catalytic converter to detoxify emissions, in Europe as well as Japan.

So far, Honda only has announced plans to bring a 4-cyl. turbodiesel engine to the U.S. in three years.

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