Anti-excess: Toyota ME.WE Concept


Following hot on the heels of Renault’s recent collaboration with Ross Lovegrove, Toyota unveiled the ME.WE concept at its Rendez Vous atelier in Paris on Thursday.

Created by renowned French architect and furniture maker Jean-Marie Massaud in conjunction with Toyota’s ED2 design studio in France, the experimental concept explores sustainable design themes through a range of renewable and recyclable materials – notably expanded polypropylene body panels, bamboo decking and seats made from hemp fibres.

Wanting to align itself with Massaud’s design philosophy of creating harmony between human beings and their natural surroundings, Toyota invited the designer to its ED2 studios and gave him a simple brief: to design a B-segment car he would like to drive.

We asked him to propose some solutions for a B-segment sized car in Europe,” recalls project chief designer Laurent Bouzige. What came next was an environmentally efficient, back-to-basics vehicle designed to be the antithesis of exaggerated opulence.

The ME.WE’s simple design can be configured to cater to a range of uses. With its side glazing and windscreen lowered the car can be made into a cabriolet, while a cleverly integrated neoprene sheet can cover luggage stowed atop its bamboo-clad roof. Its polypropylene panels can also be customized to suit different tastes. It’s more of a lifestyle vehicle than a status symbol.

In that sense, it’s true to its French origins. The ME.WE could actually be seen as the modern day interpretation of the Citroen Mehari – its body panels and simple IP are just some of the elements that reference the iconic French vehicle, which itself was an inspiration for Massaud. But the goal was more far reaching than that.

We asked ourselves how, with current technology, can we innovate and create something satisfying for the user,” Massaud told Green Car Design. It’s an approach Massaud used in the creation of collective spaces he’s designed, such as the Manned Cloud roving hotel and the Volcano stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico.

 

The answer was seen in creating a ‘popular’ vehicle that transcends class and provides a sensory experience; something Bouzige says fits with Toyota’s Vibrant Clarity design philosophy. Toyota’s savoir-faire in alternatively propelled powertrains also came into play – providing the car with four in-wheel electric motors sourced from the recently revealed i-Road concept.

As far as collaborations with industrial designers go, the ME.WE can not only be seen as a successful concept, but one that further reinforces the automaker’s eco credentials with a view toward more sustainable design solutions for the future.

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