The Japanese automaker hopes to add electric power and autonomous capability to the workhorse fleets of major corporations

As one might guess by glancing at the news coming out of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, autonomous technology and electric vehicles are a pretty hot topic right now. And not just when it comes to passenger vehicle, either – these two major advances look to revolutionize a variety of businesses as well, offering reduced costs, greater energy efficiency, and higher levels of productivity and safety. Now, Toyota is giving us a glimpse at what the future of business transport might look like with its new e-Palette Alliance and accompanying e-Palette Concept Vehicle.

Toyota’s stated goal is to “meet the demands of future multi-mode transportation and business applications” through the utilization of a “new mobility ecosystem.” That includes Toyota’s Global Mobility Services Platform, as well as a series of partnerships and a flexible, modular, self-driving, all-electric concept to power it.

Basically, the e-Palette is a big four-wheeled platform that drives itself and runs on electrons, offering a large degree of adaptability for businesses. It includes a purpose-built interior space that can be leveraged for a variety of services, including “parcel delivery, ride sharing, or on-the-road e-commerce.” Toyota says it’s planning three different sizes for the e-Palette, with measurements varying between 4 meters and 7 meters (13.1 feet and 23 feet). For reference, the model at CES measures in at 4,800 mm (189 inches) in length, 2,000 mm (78.7 inches) in width, and 2,250 mm (88.6) inches in height.

So far, Toyota’s partners include companies like Mazda, Uber, Amazon, Pizza Hut, and DiDi, all of which offer input on “vehicle planning, application concepts and vehicle verification activities.” To adapt each e-Palette to the needs of each individual company, there’s an open control interface that will enable other companies to use their own automated drive systems if desired, as well as a bevy of connected features and the possibility for over-the-air updates.

The e-Palette is more than just a good idea. Toyota says it will conduct feasibility testing in various locales in the “early 2020s,” while also bringing the concept in some capacity to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.


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