Ok, let's start with the disclaimer. A patent filing does not mean the idea in the patent in question will ever be produced. Even so, when we look through the latest applications, we can sometimes see a vague vision of the future. Today's edition: the possibility of a new hybrid or plug-in hybrid pickup
First, let's take a look at Patent Filing #20170217296. It has a innocuous name that sounds like the most boring possible idea to patent: "Framework structure of body-on-frame vehicle." But, if you read a bit deeper, you see that something's happening here that might be talking about a new, electrified Toyota. After describing the way that a redesigned frame can hold a battery, it says, "there is still a room for improvement of a structure that protects a battery unit (a battery) in a collision of a vehicle (a body-on-frame vehicle)." These days, body-on-frame vehicles are usually pickups and SUVs, and so when the patent filing continues in this manner, our ears perked up: "Although the type of vehicle is not particularly limited herein, typical examples include a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHV), hybrid vehicle (HV), and electric vehicle (EV)."
It's not like Toyota hasn't ever talked about a hybrid truck. See the A-BAT concept from 2010. We could also point to the very real production versions of the Highlander Hybrids or RAV4 EVs (made, of course, with help from Tesla). Given that the filing was made at the end of last year (December 15, 2016, to be precise), though, it's unlikely this is a hold-over from any of those projects. So, what do you think we're looking at here? Anything? Nothing?
We asked, and a Toyota spokesperson told InsideEVs, "Our engineers frequently research many innovative ideas, which result in patents but not products." Make of that what you will.