Published on January 20th, 2012 | by Charis Michelsen2
Central Japan Bent on Developing Electric Micro Cars
Automotive World 2012, held this week in Tokyo, has exhibitions from all around the country (but not so many international booths, apparently). One of the prefectural booths is from Gunma, called (by me) the Midwest of Japan. Better known for its strong winds and manufacturing centers than for its technological innovation, Gunma, nonetheless, showcased at least one electric vehicle exhibition.
Mini Cars from the Midst of the Rice Fields
The exhibition in question was the Gunma Micro EV Association, in the show’s Electric Car Special Display Corner (it was not in an actual corner, however). The association exhibited a full-scale model of its TT1 truck (a tiny micro truck, as one might guess from the name of the group displaying it).
Representative director Munemura Masahiro spoke at some length, as reported by Response.jp, on developing tiny electric vehicles:
“The [Gunma Micro EV] Association has been working with Gunma University to develop an all-purpose EV chassis we call the ‘mini light EV system.’ We’re using the two mini EVs we’ve already developed – the TT1 and the μTT2.”
They Make Mini-Buses, Too
The association is also working on the prototype of its 8-wheeled, low-speed bus (called the Emyu) meant for urban areas only. The Emyu’s target passengers are the elderly and tourists – the two groups of people least likely to own a vehicle of their own. Munemura also spoke briefly about the direction he hopes the group will take:
“Of course, if we’re to take [either the bus or the truck] to full-scale production, the cost of that production becomes very important. We’d like to sell our vehicles for less than one million yen, but in order to do that we have to redesign the vehicles. The prototypes we have now are giving us valuable experience in that regard. Hopefully we’ll have something great to show you next year.”
I can’t think of a better testing ground for micro EVs than Japan – its twisty narrow roads and low speed limits make it ideal for tiny vehicles. Questions? Comments? Would you drive something tiny if it could go far enough? Let us know in the comments, below.