Toyota to launch concept pickup

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to introduce a concept hybrid pickup truck featuring improved fuel economy and lower emissions at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the automaker said Friday.

The A-BAT concept vehicle is equipped with Hybrid Synergy Drive, Toyota’s third-generation gas-electric hybrid powertrain technology, according to the company. Its trapezoidal profile was borrowed from the Prius, another hybrid Toyota vehicle.

”This concept is the next evolution of the compact truck,” said Kevin Hunter, president of Calty Design Research Inc., Toyota’s North American-based research and design center, in a statement.

The four-passenger pickup features a 4-foot bed, while a translucent roof panel slides open to allow for tall cargo inside the cab. The bed can be extended by 2 feet by folding down the passthrough midgate into the cab and by another 2 feet by opening the tailgate.

The truck uses a unibody platform for improved handling and a smoother ride. Inside, there is a retractable portable navigation unit with a 7-inch screen and wireless Internet, while the center console houses a portable battery pack.

Both the driver and front passenger have large display screens to view the status of their high-tech gadgets and climate and audio settings.

The A-BAT has solar panels atop the instrument panel to capture sunlight and convert it to energy, to assist in charging the navigation unit, battery pack and backlit information displays, Toyota said.

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