Modular bus platform could change the way we view public transportation

Toyota may be known for its affordable Corolla and fast Supra, but the Japanese firm is also selling buses and boats in its home market. The Coaster, the only bus it offers right now, is quite famous. It’s been around for nearly 50 years, sold under license to Hino, and copied by numerous brands throughout Asia, especially in China and India. Come 2018 and Toyota wants to expand its bus production overseas. But its vehicle of choice is far from being a regular people hauler. The e-Palette concept wants to revolutionize public transportation and change the way we look at minivans and commercial trucks.

The e-Palette was designed as a multi-size vehicle, with lengths between four and seven meters

Set to be unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, e-Palette is essentially a modular box on wheels. It’s far from stylish and won’t get you a prize at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, but Toyota’s goal with this hauler is to provide a platform that’s good for every job out there, be it ride sharing, public transportation, parcel delivery, or heavy-duty, nation-wide distribution.

Two main features enable the e-Palette to become all of the above. First, it was designed as a multi-size vehicle, with lengths between four and seven meters. While the model from CES will be 4.8 meters long, Toyota will be able to stretch the e-Palette’s platform to seven meters. Second, it has a barrier-free interior layout design with a low floor, which enables it to be outfitted with purpose-built interiors. It can get seats for public transportation, which can turn it into either a ride-sharing vehicle, a school bus, or an airport and hotel shuttle. A flat deck can turn it into a delivery van or a roadside assistance truck. It could also become a business on wheels, like an ice cream or burger van, or even a mobile tourist information center.

Will Toyota's New E-Palette Concept Show Us the Future of Inner-City Travel?
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The e-Palette is scheduled to begin feasibility testing in "the early 2020s" and its first application won't begin until the Paralympic Games in Tokyo the same year.

As attractive as it may sound, the e-Palette is nothing more than a concept car at this point. The good news is that Toyota is planning to put it into production, but that won’t happen anytime soon. The e-Palette is scheduled to begin feasibility testing in "the early 2020s" and its first application won’t begin until the Paralympic Games in Tokyo the same year.

It’s also worth nothing that the e-Palette will be unveiled at CES alongside a new "mobility ecosystem." That’s PR talk for a range of connected vehicle applications, providing a full suite of services needed to support MaaS ranging from vehicle leasing and insurance to fleet management and big data. Amazon, Pizza Hut, and Uber are among the first to test this new platform.

References

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