The Tokyo Motor Show opened this week, offering up not just an array of the world’s wackiest cars but also an interesting insight into where the automobile and van industries could be heading in the near future.
A common theme for the show has been an emphasis on vehicles of a smaller size, with the majority of the 14 Japanese and 18 overseas manufacturers exhibiting, showcasing tiny electric vehicles in which passengers ride in tandem.
Among the highlights of the show is a shape-shifting tricycle by Kawasaki Motors simply dubbed ‘J’. Able to morph between a low-slung riding position to a higher seated one for more laid back cruising, J is more than reminiscent of the futuristic bikes in the movie Tron.
The show also features some unique new concepts for the van industry. The stand out showing was a vehicle by Japanese manufacturer Daihatsu called the ‘FC Deck’. A miniature fuel-cell powered van, FC Deck’s appearance is akin to a children’s toy truck as opposed to a road vehicle, and measures just 3.3m long, 1.5m wide and 1.9m tall. It remains to be seen how expensive a van insurance policy will be for the FC Deck but due to its size and efficiency, the likelihood is that it will be cheaper than for a standard van.
Alongside the FC Deck is the Deca-Deca kei car van. Based on a same platform to the FC Deck, with similar dimensions, the Deca-Deca comes equipped with sports rear sliding doors on either side of the vehicle and boasts an array of seating arrangements in the interior.
Back to more traditional cars types, Renault has showcased a beautiful looking model of the ‘DeZir.’ An all-electric vehicle and capable of a top speed of 112 mph, the DeZir is two-seater coupe with butterfly doors and stands out from the crowd with its red leather interior
As expected, the world’s biggest car-maker Toyota were ever-present at the show, unveiling a Japan Taxi concept taking its inspiration from the traditional black London cabs in London. Fitted with a liquefied petroleum gas hybrid system, the car has a large interior monitor displaying detailed passenger information, such as the route to the destination and the fare.
Super clean technology
In keeping with the futuristic feel to the show, alongside the taxi cab concepts Toyota also revealed its incredible FV2 tilting car which utilises voice and image recognition to judge a driver’s mood.
The designs on show weren’t solely outlandish concepts for the future however. A little more grounded in reality were Toyota’s plans for their mass-produced fuel-cell car, the FCV. Pitting themselves head to head with rival manufacturer Honda, Toyota says it hopes to bring the model to the mass market by 2015, as the industry seeks to go green having long been sceptical over the use of the super-clean hydrogen technology.
Toyota executive, Satoshi Ogiso, overseeing the production of the fuel cells, suggested the vehicle would not simply be for those of elite status such as celebrities but intended for use as an everyday car for ordinary consumers too. Styled on the Prius gas-electric hybrid and in contrast to some of the crazy concepts on show in Japan this week, the FCV should be hitting car showrooms soon.
Honda won’t be Toyota’s sole rival in the market either. With Honda set to show off their next-generation version at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this week, Korean manufacturer Hyundai will also be throwing their hat into the ring, unveiling plans to start producing a Tucson SUV, similarly powered by fuel cell. If Hyundai stay on schedule for release in 2014 they will be the first mass-market example boasting fuel-cell technology.
The production of fuel-cell technology is set to only increase in the coming years with the Japanese and US governments investing heavily in hydrogen fuelling-station infrastructure, a necessity before fuel-cells can ever truly become practical. However despite this government backing, there are those against the plans, suggesting hydrogen-fuelling stations will cost even more money to build than charging stations for electric cars. With electricity wildly available almost anywhere already and safe ways to produce, store and transfer hydrogen as fuel yet to come to fruition, the skeptics may just have a point.