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Tokyo’s drift towards electric mobility

Updated on: Nov 05, 2015

This year’s edition of the Motor Show featured a variety of electric and hybrid models

The Japanese simply love order. They would probably be the happiest when everything goes according to plan – according to clockwork precision to say the least. Even if it is an auto show, where the best and the beautiful vehicles are on display under strobe lights. The Tokyo Motor Show at the Big Sight exhibition centre last week was no exception.

The organisers would have hardly anticipated the crowd and the scramble at German carmaker Volkswagen’s stall, with a huge contingent of print, digital and television journalists from Japan and around the world jostling for space. It was not because Volkswagen was going to unveil a stunning new car for the global media.

The scramble for space on the first day of the show, when only the media is allowed, was because the journalists were keen to know what Herbert Diess, CEO, Volkswagen Passenger Car Brands, was going to say, in the light of the emissions-cheating controversy that has engulfed the company.

The electric future

Unveiling a plug-in hybrid concept of the Tiguan GTE, Diess said the cheating scandal in the US, where Volkswagen has been found to have manipulated emission tests on its diesel vehicles, would only drive the industry to a more rapid use of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The challenge for the industry is to come up with hybrids and electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles that will travel longer distances, be easy to own and operate, and at the same time not be too high priced to put off customers. In short, how technology will help people be more mobile.

This was also the theme of the 44{+t}{+h} edition of the biennial show. As the organisers of the Tokyo Motor Show have made it clear, the event’s intent is to become the top technology motor show in the world. So much so, that this year’s theme is based on the concept of technology plus fantasy. Some of the models on display or those unveiled for the first time, were simply concepts. They may not even see production, but were funky enough in design to even get seasoned automobile journalists – die-hard sceptics that many of them are – oohing and aahing in delight. Some other exhibits in the electric vehicles, hybrid and fuel cell vehicle space gave an indication of where technology is headed.

The ‘wow’ factor

Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation, was probably speaking for the entire automobile industry when he said in his opening remarks that “Wow” is the company’s keyword at the show this year. As he pointed out, hybrids and fuel cell vehicles have been dismissed in the past as “oddities”. “Experience has taught us that while ideas like these come from the fringes at first, they settle down and become the new norm,” said Toyoda. “And then, if we don’t find a way to escape that comfort zone, we will never be able to open the road to the future.”

Toyota had on display the all-new Prius, the next generation of Toyota’s hybrid vehicle. It was the Japanese premiere for the vehicle. There was also Japan premiere of the C-HR concept, a compact hybrid crossover set to go into production soon; the world premiere of the S-FR and FCV Plus, concepts created with a future hydrogen-based society in mind; and the world premiere of the funky-looking Kikai.

Toyota’s luxury car brand, Lexus showcased the LF-FC concept, a vehicle that offers a look into the direction in which design and technology are going.

Honda Motor Company, which hosted this writer in Tokyo during the motor show, had the world premiere of the Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle, which it plans to start selling in Japan in March. Honda has reduced the fuel cell stack in the Clarity by 33 per cent compared to the previous version of the fuel cell stack and still has achieved a higher output. The powertrain layout has also enabled a full cabin that can seat five adults.

Nissan Motor Corporation unveiled a concept vehicle that outlines its vision of future of autonomous driving and zero emission electric vehicles, the Nissan IDS concept. It also displayed the Teatro for Dayz, a concept that signals a new direction in mobile technology.

Yet another Japanese manufacturer Mazda Motor Corporation the rotary-powered Mazda RX-Vision sports car concept. The vehicle is the company’s vision of the future that Mazda hopes to make a reality.

Suzuki Motor Corporation, the parent company of Maruti-Suzuki had on display a few models, at least two of which will be of interest to the Indian market – the Ignis, a compact-crossover, and the Escudo, a compact SUV.

Published on January 22, 2018

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