Green power : Environmental sustainability is very much to the fore at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show

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Takeo Fukui, president of Japanese auto giant Honda Motor, introduces the Puyo concept vehicle at a press preview of the 40th Tokyo Motor Show in Chiba on October 24. The small car features ‘ultra-high efficiency’, a small frame and fuel-cell technology t

Outrageous designs, environmental sustainability and high-performance sports cars are drawing crowds to the 40th Tokyo Motor Show, which kicked off at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba prefecture on October 27 and runs until November 11.

The show, regarded as one of the largest in the world apart from Frankfurt, Detroit, Paris and Geneva, is host to 241 companies. The motor show comes at a time when Japanese auto-makers are enjoying expanding overseas sales in contrast to their prolonged poor performance at home.

This year, the theme of the show is “Catch the News, Touch the Future”, and there are 520 vehicles on display, including 71 world premieres and 97 Japanese premieres.

This is also the first time since 1997 that the Tokyo Motor Show has featured passenger cars, commercial vehicles and motorcycles together. There are also vehicle bodies, parts, machinery and tools on exhibit.

The concepts that grabbed the most attention at the show could be the balloon-bodied Honda Puyo, the Nissan Pivo 2 and the personal-mobility vehicle from Toyota, the i-Real.

The Puyo features environmentally friendly fuel-cell technology and a “gel body” that is meant to promote greater real world safety. The body is also luminescent and changes colours depending on its running condition. On the inside, things can get a little stretchy, with an instrument panel and controls that take advantage of the elastic qualities of cloth to rise up when the vehicle starts up. Honda has taken full advantage of the boxy design by providing the occupants of the Puyo with plenty of room.

The Honda CR-Z is a lightweight sports car fitted with a clean hybrid system. It comes with sharp, edgy lines and is expected to be developed into the next CR-X production car.

The Nissan Pivo 2, the second-generation concept of the original Pivo, which was displayed at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, is another shot at being the perfect urban city vehicle. What makes the Pivo so special are the lithium-ion batteries it runs on, all wheels capable of turning 90 degrees, a cockpit that revolves by 360 degrees, so there is no need to reverse the vehicle, and, wait for it, a built-in robotic agent that will accompany you on every drive!

While the previous-generation Pivo, with its 360-degree rotating cabin, took reversing out of the formula of driving, the 90-degree turning wheels allow the Pivo 2 to drive sideways as well as forward. If you’re feeling lonely on the road, then the robotic agent will keep you company by talking to you in either Japanese or English.

What makes the robotic agent in the Pivo 2 a real marvel is that it constantly monitors the physical and emotional state of the driver. Designers of the Pivo 2 say that the robotic agent will say soothing words if another driver cuts in front of you, and will monitor your eye movement to recommend whether you should stop for a rest. The main idea is to make cars that are easier and less tiring to drive.

The Nissan NV200 is a mini-van specially developed for ocean photographers. This version is fitted with underwater swimming gear and hi-tech camera, all neatly stowed away inside a concealed cartridge device that can be extended for easy access. Once the cartridge is extracted and stabilised with two legs, the interior is transformed into a portable video editing room.

Other cars at the show, like the Toyota RiN, also focus on making life easier for the driver. The official statement from Toyota about the RiN sounds more like the preaching of a Buddhist monk. “The RiN is a vehicle that focuses on ‘increased comfort’ and ‘serene, healthy living’. Through their relationship to the vehicle, drivers are encouraged to re-evaluate themselves and, furthermore, to turn their attention to society and nature, producing a healthy rhythm for both mind and body.” The RiN features an oxygen-level conditioner and a pinpoint humidifier, and uses green glass that reduces infiltration of ultraviolet and infrared light, making the surroundings seem brighter and clearer.

Toyota also displayed the 1/Xth, which is meant to weigh only 1/Xth of a car in its class. The 1/Xth, which provides the same interior space as a Prius, will give you double the fuel mileage, mainly because of its super-light 420kg weight. Also at the show was the iQ concept, which is likely to reach production soon.

Continuing on the concept of personal mobility from the PM, i-unit and i-Swing, the i-Real is fitted with two front and one rear wheel and comes with two driving modes. In walking mode, the vehicle takes on a more upright stance as the wheelbase is shortened, so that it does not interfere with other pedestrians. But in sprint mode, the wheelbase is lengthened for a lower stance and the i-Real can travel at more than 40kph. And when it senses people or objects nearby, it sound a gentle warning and vibration to inform the driver what’s nearby.

The Hi-CT, on the other hand, comes with a design inspired by a gorilla. The battery pack is fitted under the floor, and this plug-in hybrid can be recharged from a 100-volt outlet. It also comes with an AC 100v accessory socket that enables stored electricity to be used for a variety of applications.

It features a removable rear trunk and a deck where surfboards, bicycles and other equipment can be loaded.

The FT-HS is a next-generation rear-wheel-drive hybrid sports car that does not compromise in its aim of offering driving excitement and being environmentally considerate.

Power for this two-plus-two convertible coupe comes from a hybrid system with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine.

The Mazda Taiki continues the evolution of the Nagare design theme, following the footsteps of the Nagare, Ryuga and Hakaze concepts. Being the fourth in the series, the Taiki continues the theme through a fusion of flow design concept and real-world technologies such as a next-generation rotary engine and enhanced aerodynamic performance.

The Taiki borrows the name from the Japanese word for “atmosphere”. The design intends to create the visual expression of air flowing through a tube.

Even performance-car producer Subaru put on display a concept it calls Subaru G4e, which stands for Green for the Earth. The next generation lithium-ion batteries are claimed to give the G4e a range of 200 kilometres. The G4e can seat five people. The aerodynamic body of the G4e achieves a CD figure of 0.276. About 80 per cent of the batteries can be recharged within 15 minutes, although a full charge takes eight hours.

The Subaru Exiga is a seven-seater mini-van that uses the Legacy platform. It features a panoramic glass roof, turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive technology.

Mitsubishi also ensured that it got a piece of the limelight with the i-Miev Sport Concept. The concept – which is based on the “i” mini-car – gets a sporty make-over with side vents and a coupe-like design. It uses the same electric plug-in technology found in the i-Miev, which means two in-wheel motors driving the front wheels and one motor for the rear.

The Mitsubishi Concept ZT showcases an advanced level of driving pleasure, safety and environmental responsibility. Under the hood, a newly developed fuel-efficient, 2.2-litre clean diesel engine is mated to the new twin-clutch SST (Sport Shift Transmission). It also includes advanced active safety features as well as passive safety technology, such as a pop-up hood.

The Suzuki Kizashi 2 is a crossover SUV concept with futuristic styling and a 3.5-litre V6, which is the largest production engine Suzuki has ever made. It also has a six-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.

The Pixy concept is a low-speed individual mobile vehicle that is stored in the larger SSC (Suzuki Sharing Coach), a two-seat fuel-cell vehicle with solar panels for charging the batteries.

The Daihatsu OFC-1 (Open Future Concept) has a glass roof that allows occupants to enjoy the fresh air, even when the top is up, thanks to the “canopy-top open sports car” design. It has a 660cc engine and 17-inch wheels.

However, the Japanese have assured the world that they have not forgotten about the driving spirit, and plenty of sports cars litter the show floor. Nissan has launched its much-awaited GT-R, which comes with a 480bhp 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6. In these green-conscious times, CEO Carlos Ghosn was quick to point out the GT-R could reach Japan’s U-Lev (Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle) standards despite its ability to reach 100kph in only 3.6 seconds.

Other cars that pack a punch at the show are the Mitsubishi Evo X, the Subaru Impreza WRX STi, the BMW M3 sedan and the Lexus IS-F.

Vijo Varghese,

Kingsley Wijayasinha

The Nation

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