As global auto companies race to put long-range EVs on roads amid stricter emission laws, Japanese competitors are following a niche strategy and steering in the direction of cheaper, pint-sized runabouts to make costly battery technology more accessible.
At the Tokyo Motor Show that begins on Thursday, Toyota Motor, Nissan, and others are on account of show prototypes of 1- and two-seater electric autos (EVs) designed for short distances with reduced top speeds.
They’re betting such EVs are best-placed for Japan’s narrow streets, cramped parking areas, and rapidly aging society, and that the automobiles will eventually catch on globally too as the aged inhabitants grow. However, the jury is still out on whether these automobiles will work abroad.
The Japanese strategy is in contrast to that of General Motors, Volkswagen, and different international gamers who are focusing on normal-sized passenger autos, including SUVs, competing with the highest-selling Tesla Model 3 EV sedan.
Toyota’s new, ultra-compact BEV seats two people and has a top speed of merely 60 kilometers/hr (37 miles/hr) and a spread of 100 kilometers on a single charge. At a length of 2.49 meters, it’s a little over half the size of the Tesla Model 3.
Japan’s prime auto manufacturer, which pioneered “green car” technologies with the Prius gasoline hybrid over 20 years ago, has long argued that all-battery EVs are best suited for brief trips as a result of high battery prices.
It further believes lower-emission hybrids and zero-emissions hydrogen gas cell vehicles, like its second-gen Mirai FCV, work better for longer-distance driving.