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The Suzuki Smike is a very popular “kei-car” passenger wagon in Japan.

Cars

Top Kei Car Makers Join Forces to Create Commercial Kei Vans

Suzuki Motor Corporation and Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd. are experts in making what is known in Japan as the “kei car.” The kei car is a littler version of the vans, sedans, and hatchbacks you’re familiar with — and they comprise around 31 million of Japan’s nearly 80 million car population, as well as 60% of the country’s total commercial vehicle fleet.

Electrifying the commercial kei van is the objective of a partnership between Suzuki, Daihatsu, Toyota Motor Corporation (which partly owns Daihatsu), and the Commercial Japan Partnership Technologies Corporation (CJPT) in order to achieve some of Japan’s important carbon neutrality goals by 2023.

A market introduction of electrified mini-commercial electric vans is crucial to the achievement of the carbon neutrality goals, because the kei vans are extremely useful in Japan’s narrow city roads and narrower provincial routes. They are able to cover areas accessible only to them because of their small size and are important in supporting last-mile logistics.

Since these make up 60% of the total commercial vehicle fleet, electrifying will significantly to environmental goals. However, a major issue in promoting the electrification of mini-commercial vehicles includes the higher vehicle costs associated with electrification, the costs related to charging infrastructure, and the charging time which results in downtime, something that is uncharacteristic to kei car vans.

To solve these issues, CJPT will participate in the planning, while Suzuki, Daihatsu, and Toyota will jointly develop a BEV system suitable for mini-commercial vehicles by combining Suzuki and Daihatsu’s know-how in manufacturing mini vehicles with Toyota’s electrification technology. 

The mini-commercial BEV van developed by these four companies will be initially used by partners in social implementation projects in Fukushima Prefecture and Tokyo as part of a country-wide plan for more sustainable means of transportation.

 
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Written By

Raymond Gregory Tribdino is the motoring & information technology editor of Malaya Business Insight (www.malaya.com.ph) in the Philippines. He has been covering automotive, transport, and IT since 1992. His passion for electric vehicles started with the failed electrification of a scooter in 1994. He wrote for EVWorld.com, one of the pioneer electric vehicle websites, in 1997. He was a college professor for 8 years at the Philippine Women’s University. He is also now a podcaster co-hosting for the Philippines' top-rated YouTube tech site “TechSabado” and the baby-boomer popular “Today is Tuesday.” He is a husband and father of five, a weekend mechanic and considers himself a handyman, an amateur ecologist, and environmentalist. He is back to trying to electrify motorcycles starting with a plug-in trail motorcycle.

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