Eco-friendly cars drive interest at Tokyo show

BEETLE BANISHED: A model poses with a Volkswagen XL-1 at the media preview for the Tokyo Motor Show in Japan.   Pictures: AP

Eco-friendly cars were in the spotlight as the Tokyo Motor Show opened yesterday, with Toyota unveiling a new model and Nissan touting its aerodynamic BladeGlider for energy-conscious drivers.

Toyota, a pioneer of hybrid vehicles, rolled out its fuel cell vehicle (FCV) concept car, a four-seater with an extended range of 500kms (310 miles) and whose cells can be recharged in three minutes through hydrogen stored inside. The car, expected to go on commercial sale in about two years, seeks to jump key hurdles that have hindered consumer buying, such as limited range and refuelling infrastructure.

High prices and restricted model choices have also hurt demand, but purchases of low-emission vehicles are forecast to grow due to increasingly strict emissions standards.

Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, also showcased its futuristic, scooter-like FV2, which allows standing drivers to change direction simply by shifting their weight. It is similar to the Segway, but can move at faster speeds. The concept vehicle’s pop-up windshield can turn oncoming objects a distinct colour to alert drivers.

Eco-friendly cars drive interest at Tokyo show

CUTTING EDGE: A Nissan BladeGlider concept electric car targets drivers seeking performance.

Despite the show’s focus on eco-friendly vehicles, Toyota executive vice-president Mitsuhisa Kato said manufacturers must still make vehicles consumers want to buy.

“We want to make cars that people fall madly in love with, cars that convince them they could never drive anything else.”

Nissan yesterday showed off its BladeGlider, an electric concept three-seater vehicle aimed at giving drivers a sense of piloting a glider. The car targets drivers seeking performance and styling in an environmentally-friendly car.

However, Nissan’s hopes for sales of its commercially available Leaf electric vehicle are way below the predictions of chief executive Carlos Ghosn, who said yesterday he remains hopeful, especially if governments follow through on pledges to boost re-charging infrastructure.

“We continue to believe that it will be a major component of the car industry,” said Ghosn.

Nissan is also working on fuel-cell cars, but Ghosn was “frankly, amazed” that rivals see widespread commercial sales in the near future, given the lack of re-fuelling stations for hydrogen tanks.

Fuel cell vehicles are considered the holy grail, as they emit nothing but water vapour and can operate on renewable hydrogen gas.

Major US manufacturers, including GM and Ford, have not attended the show since before the financial crisis, while Hyundai is the sole South Korean attendee.

Europe is well represented with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche joined by Audi, Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot-Citroen, Land Rover and Volvo.


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