The theme of the 2009 Tokyo Auto Show 2009 is “Fun Driving for Us, Eco Driving for Earth.” So, it’s no surprise that Japan’s biggest automakers—Toyota, Nissan and Honda—will be rolling out their funky futuristic networked electric cars. The show opens to the public on Oct. 24.
While falling behind on hybrids, Nissan is taking the lead on electric cars. The company will show the Nissan Leaf, which will make its US debut in late 2010. But Nissan will also display a concept two-seat electric car called the Land Glider. The cocoon-shaped vehicle is 10 feet long, three-and-a-half feet wide, and can lean as much as 17 degrees when turning corners. According to Nissan, the ultra-compact, ultra-lightweight, ultra-narrow Land Glider has a potential to become a new means of transportation in urban areas, reducing traffic and parking congestion.
Honda will show a near-ready production version of its CR-Z hybrid—as the company follows its strategy of focusing on small and affordable hybrids like the Honda Insight. The company also gazes into the future when cities will be more congested and more networked. Honda will display the EV-N design study—a small, four-seat battery-electric vehicle that combines Internet-age technology and retro-1960s style. The Honda EV-N uses solar cells in the roof, and a wireless communication system for traffic and EV charging station info. The EV-N’s door conveniently stores the Honda U3-X, its quirky electric unicycle that can move in any direction when the driver leans in the intended direction.
Honda will also unveil the Honda Skydeck, a small six-seat hybrid minivan, which houses the its hybrid system in the car’s center tunnel (rather than behind the rear seats) to allow for greater cabin space and room for three rows of two seats. This design signals a shift in how hybrids will pack batteries and components in the future.
Toyota will not be left out of the electric fantasy parade. The company will show a range of more immediate hybrids, including a plug-in version of the Toyota Prius, but it will also display the next iteration of the FT-EV it showed early this year at the Detroit Show.
In Detroit, the FT-EV appeared as a relatively practical electric version of the Toyota IQ minicar. In Tokyo, it goes out on a futuristic limb—by removing the steering wheel and foot pedals and turning the car into an information device on wheels. As the Toyota press release states, “The FT-EV II is not simply an electric vehicle designed for a post-fossil fuel era, but is a sustainable concept car that focuses on the relationship between cars, people and society of the future.” The onboard communication system links to the driver’s home network, from which it can access large volumes of data, and download music and movies. Toyota says it’s primarily designed for short-distance travel for urban commuters.