Despite its image as a somewhat conservative automaker, Toyota’s designs have pushed the envelope of style versus substance. The outgoing Prius wasn’t pretty by any standard, but nobody can deny its curb presence. Moving to electrification opens other avenues to explore packaging and design, and Toyota’s latest concept shows its vision for an emissions-free urban future.
Called Kayoibako, the concept takes the shape of a small, boxy van, which isn’t surprising when you know that the name means “configurable shipping container” in Japanese. The automaker said that the vehicle is intended to be a “quality base unit” that can be customized based on the need. It will also be able to form a part of the power grid and will have hardware and software to manage the integration.
In commercial settings, the vehicle will help with “last-mile” logistics, moving cargo from large transport vessels to the final destination. Toyota said the van can also be customized with shelves and other gear to become a rolling shop or bus. Private owners will also be able to customize the van, and its design will enable more convenient wheelchair access.
The Kayoibako is slightly smaller than mainstream minivans in the U.S. today. Its 2800mm wheelbase is just over nine feet, about a foot shorter than the Chrysler Pacifica. Its role as an urban appliance likely plays a role in that number, as shorter wheelbases make it easier to navigate tight spaces.
We will likely see more of these “do-it-all” vehicles as companies dive deeper into electrification. The flexible skateboard chassis that underpin modern EVs are flexible and can be adapted to a wide range of vehicle types. While funky, small utility-adjacent vehicles like this could become much more popular as automakers discover efficiencies from the scale they can achieve with a modular EV platform.