Japanese car makers out to electrify Tokyo show

October 19, 2009 by Daniel Rook
Photographers take pictures of the new Japanese Nissan Motor's electric vehicle called "Leaf" during the opening ceremony for the new company headquarters in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture, on August 2009.

Move over hybrids -- the biggest buzz at this year's Tokyo Motor Show looks set to come from electric cars as the dream of affordable zero-emission vehicles moves closer to reality.

Japanese automakers, pioneers in powered by a mixture of petrol and electricity, are now looking to take fuel-efficient motoring to the next level with vehicles that run on rechargeable batteries.

Nissan will put its electric car, the Leaf, on display to the public for the first time at the , which kicks off on Wednesday with press previews and opens to general visitors on Saturday.

The mid-sized hatchback, which will go on sale in late 2010 in Japan, is billed by Nissan as "the world's first affordable, zero-emission car."

It can travel more than 160 kilometres (100 miles) on a single charge, at a top speed of 140 kilometres per hour.

The world's largest automaker Toyota, which has said it aims to launch an electric vehicle by 2012, will display a new version of its electric concept car -- the FT-EV II -- at the show.

"We think the time is almost ripe for cost levels, batteries and performance to evolve one step further," said Toyota's Akihiro Yanaka, who oversees the project.

Nissan will also show off a futuristic electric concept car that leans to the side when going around bends.

The "Land Glider," just 1.1 metres (3 feet 7 inches) wide, seats two people -- one in the front and one in the back. Inspired by motorbikes and glider aircraft, it has tilting wheels that enable it to lean by up to 17 degrees.

From Honda comes the EV-N, a cute new electric that can store a one-wheel personal mobility device inside its door.

The dream of an electric car, which has been around since the time of Thomas Edison, has so far failed to break into the mainstream because of the high cost and limited life.

But after technological advances in the development of long-lasting lithium-ion batteries, the dawn of affordable zero-emission automobiles may be approaching.

Nissan says it plans to sell the Leaf at a similar price to a comparable model with a petrol-powered engine.

The battery will be leased separately for a monthly charge that, together with the electricity cost, will be cheaper than gasoline, it says.

The Leaf will not be the first electric car on the market. Mitsubishi Motors recently started selling its "i MiEV" minicar. But at 4.6 million yen (50,600 dollars), for now it is aimed at corporate and government clients.

Subaru meanwhile launched the Plug-in STELLA for about 4.73 million yen but plans to deliver just 170 of the vehicles between late July and next March.

Some experts are sceptical about whether can enter the mainstream within the next decade given the lack of recharging stations and the high production costs, particularly in the current economic climate.

Mass recalls of lithium-ion batteries for laptop computers by some makers due to fears of overheating have also stirred safety concerns.

"If you look at the next four or five years, especially for electric cars, the business case is pretty challenging," said Ashvin Chotai, the London-based managing director of Intelligence Automotive Asia, a consultancy firm.

Even by 2020, "it's hard to see how penetration levels of electric cars will increase significantly. There's still a lot of challenges in terms of concerns about the safety of the lithium-ion batteries and reducing costs."

But others see a brighter future for electric cars given growing concerns about global warming, the prospect of a decline in production costs and the fact that many governments are offering subsidies for zero-emission vehicles.

If the price for consumers of an electric car declines below two million yen (22,000 dollars), "then demand will grow dramatically," said Tatsuya Mizuno, director of Mizuno Credit Advisory.

"The biggest cost comes from the rechargeable batteries. I expect the price will decline at a relatively high speed," said Mizuno, who also thinks that safety issues surrounding lithium-ion batteries have now been resolved.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Toyota unveils 'green' sports car

Related Stories

Toyota unveils 'green' sports car

October 6, 2009

Toyota unveiled Tuesday a new lightweight, sporty concept car inspired by an iconic coupe from the 1980s, saying its vision of the future was both mean and green.

Nissan's 'Leaf' to challenge Toyota's Prius (Update)

August 6, 2009

Nissan's upcoming all-electric car could outsell hybrids like Toyota's Prius even though it can't drive more than about 100 miles (160 kilometers) without stopping to recharge, a senior executive said.

Japanese firm plans zero-emission ferry

October 15, 2009

A Japanese shipmaker said Thursday it planned to launch the world's first large electric ferry -- the latest innovation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Nissan rolls out electric car at new headquarters

August 2, 2009

(AP) -- Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn drove quietly out of the Japanese automaker's soon-to-open headquarters Sunday in the first public viewing of its new zero-emission vehicle.

Recommended for you

Uber filed paperwork for IPO: report

December 8, 2018

Ride-share company Uber quietly filed paperwork this week for its initial public offering, the Wall Street Journal reported late Friday.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2009
but we already know that this is not really a change in the power source. just a diversion from the real power source. but it will make an impact nonetheless and a prerequisite to ultimately relieve reliance from fossil fuels.
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 19, 2009
Yes, while it isn't truly zero emission, it is more practical to deal with the emissions at one big power plant than millions of individual cars. Also smog and pollution impacting major cities would disappear.

I just wish they wouldn't make electric cars look so goofly looking. Why can't they just make them look normal?
3.5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2009
As usual, they need more range! 100 miles isn't enough for even a small trip anywhere.
4.7 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2009
Beg to differ, CD. 160 km is enough to go to Portland and back, which is the longest trip I make in the average month (and often in a year). Granted, I'm used to fueling my van once a month, but plugging a car in at night wouldn't be any more of a problem than plugging in a cellphone.

BK - unfortunately, normal looking hybrids don't sell. Honda has learned that the hard way. You can't be smug unless it's obvious you're driving a hybrid.
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2009
The future is for electric cars nothing else. And all the energy must come from green energy wind,solar, bio-mass and so on. The climate change is a direct threat for sustainable life. If we not act millions of people will die in the coming decades.
5 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2009
Imagine a city without a gasoline-powered vehicles.
Would you like to live in it?
1 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2009
Yes Buyck, let's hyperventilate together about carbon dioxide and the coming holocaust.

Because, like, if, we don't totally start paying lots more for stuff, and like, stop using cars, the world is totally going to burn up and all the polar bears and dolphins will die.

I wonder how we're going to get the CO2 permits for enough wood to boil our rat dinners when we finally get the post-1984 lifestyles the greens are howling for, because the solar panels don't work when it's raining.
1 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2009
100 years after Edison, storing electrical energy is still the problem. The safest, reasonably practical chemistries are still Pb-acid or NiMH. But energy density is about a quarter or half that of Li and that is a fraction of the energy stored in a comparable liter of gasoline or diesel. Safer Li recipes have been developed. But don't get any one of them into a bad crash, because the Li in the electrolyte will spontaneously burst into flame on contact with air. Operating life is one issue that has not been solved. It is not just a matter of how you operate the battery. There is a calendar life issue which is significant under the most ideal of conditions. A separate lease for the battery pack says that they are attempting a marketing solution instead of a technical one. This is to cover the most expensive and energy intensive part of the car to make that will have to be replaced every few years. Looks like a bad deal financially and there is still work to do.
1 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2009
So I'll bet you lunch that the cost to operate that tiny electric car is much higher than a comparable conventional car around today without any gov't price manipulation. So let's have the godfather add a bit more non-productive overhead so they can tax petroleum and subsidize electric, Then the electric grid needs to be upgraded to handle the additional loads as well. It's do-able, but more expense. The cost to society is higher and we all suffer some. But it's worth it because we are saving the planet. No cause can be more noble than that, so there can be no dissenting opinion much less a debate.
1 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2009
Did someone above mention smog? That problem in passenger cars in industrialized countries was solved years ago. Unfortunately other than a military war, in no gov't program (or environmental cause) can they ever say, "We're done guys. Good job, let's all go home." If a past goal is met, it is rarely admitted in public. Instead the problem has to be redefined so we're never done and the bureaucracy or special interest group can live on. You can feel in your heart that will ALWAYS be the case with CO2 and global warming. Dire "threats to sustainable life" are at best exaggerations, and at worst irresponsible scare tactics. Nothing grabs one's attention like a good crisis. A crisis invoking fear and worry can make one do what he would never consider normally. That is what makes it such a powerful tool.

Getting too long winded and a bit off on a tangent for this forum so I'll stop here. :)

2 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2009
What is the price you could pay, Velanarris?
not rated yet Oct 19, 2009
So make your own electricity. It's profitable right now to make your own, it just has a 10 year break-even on the solar panels. After that it's making you money. If power cost jump 10x, solar pays for itself in a year... Power only makes money if it has someone to sell to, no matter what price they charge. You can make your net energy = 0 overnight and reduce the load on the grid.
not rated yet Oct 24, 2009
I like the Chevy Volt concept best of all.You get the advantage of pure electric operation for day to day commuting,and with the on board recharging engine,you can make the occasional long distance trip free of "range anxiety". It would help GM if they were to lease their battery packs,thus lowering the sticker price on the car.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.