To the casual observer of the North American market, hybrids would seem to be Toyota's most visible environmental play. (The lineup now includes the second generation Prius, the new Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV and its Lexus RX 400h luxury SUV.)
But in addition to initiating the hybrid revolution, the company may be launching a bigger one. The evidence: the Raum, a second-generation vehicle marketed only in Japan that may be even more disruptive to conventional thinking. (At the very least, Toyota admits the second-generation Raum hints at the company's future product direction.)
The all-new vehicle presents a unique combination of attributes under the umbrella theme of Universal Design. Toyota says the concept starts by focusing on making a product that is easy to use for just about anybody. For example, the company has customers repeatedly evaluating the product throughout the design process. Those interations target such things as ingress and egress, interior space, driving ease and passenger comfort.
New environmental standards are also part of the Universal Design theme. In addition to providing reduced emissions and improved fuel efficiency, the Raum features environmentally considerate materials such as plant-based materials (Toyota's Eco-Plastic) and employs design concepts that make dismantling easier for enhanced recyclability.
Toyota says Universal Design has resulted in a design that is both gentle on people and the earth and is fun drive.