1 March 2004

Italdesign-Giugiaro will unveil a radical mid-engined Toyota hybrid in Geneva this week. The supergreen 38mpg, 155mph supercar is powered by the same mechanical package as Toyota’s new Lexus RX400h.

The Alessandro Volta was developed with full co-operation from Toyota, which has worked with Giorgetto Giugiaro for more than 30 years, mostly in secret. ‘Toyota hybrids lead the world,’ said Fabrizio Giugiaro, son of Giorgetto and now head of Italdesign-Giugiaro’s studios. ‘We wanted to do something extreme with Toyota – we’ve had a relationship with them for a long time – and discovered the hybrid has enormous advantages.

‘With any mid-engined car, you want to keep most of the weight between the wheels and not in the overhangs. Adding four-wheel drive only complicates the packaging even further. On the Toyota there are no mechanical elements outside the wheelbase apart from the front radiator and with an electric engine in the front, there is no need for a tailshaft, so the floor is completely flat.’

Named after the Italian scientist who discovered the battery, the compact Alessandro Volta measures just 4350mm long, but a wide 1930mm. By building the car with a one-piece carbonfibre tub and body, it’s estimated to weigh just 1250kg.

The engineers mounted the 3.3-litre V6 transversely, in conjunction with two electric motors, one for each set of axles, to give a total of 402bhp, enough to accelerate the hybrid to 62mph in a claimed 4.1sec.

The transverse location means the four exhaust pipes can be located in the body sides. The slit-like vents in the upper body are for engine breathing (top) and cooling (lower).

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