The usually choc-a-bloc bus parking lot at Makuhari Messe was deserted. There were no car company hoardings on the way to the Tokyo Motor Show venue either. Inside, the show was restricted to just three halls. There were no go-go girls in skimpy costumes dancing to loud techno beats. Missing in action were Ferrari and Lamborghini. No Jaguar or Aston Martin, either. Not even Volkswagen. The space normally occupied by the American giants was filled in with paintings by children ï¿½ on an automotive theme, mind you.
Still, the 41st Tokyo Motor Show will be remembered as an electric show. It is no secret that the Japanese are leading the way when it comes to hybrid and electric vehicle technology. Sure, the big Japanese car firms are ahead when it comes to fuel-cell technology as well, but the current financial environment plus reduced extravagance in the form of 'reference' vehicles or concept cars meant the focus was more on tangible hybrid and electric hardware. Don't be surprised if future Tokyo Motor Shows are dedicated to these machines - a whopping 8.9 per cent of all cars sold in Japan today are hybrids. Bet you didn't know that.
Toyota Motor Corporation led the way, with the Prius Plug-In Hybrid concept, which for the first time employs lithium-ion batteries. As the name of the concept indicates, it can be charged from a power socket. The advantage over a conventional hybrid? How about 55 km to the litre and a range of 20 km just on battery power alone?
Also enjoying the limelight as a world premiere was the FT-EVII, an ultra-small, fully-electric, four-seater with sliding doors, a joystick (yes, you read that right) for controls and a top speed of 100 kph. A 90 km range makes it an appealing proposition for congested city streets. Perfect, then, for congestion-charge infested cities like London.
Also launched was a traditional sedan, based on the luxury Hybrid sedan, which may sell well in India because of its name - SAI (which means 'talent' in Japanese). Just to keep internal combustion engine fans happy, Toyota also unveiled the FT-86 concept, with a sporty front-engine rear-wheel drive layout, designed and developed with the help of its subsidiary, Subaru.
The Honda EV-N is designed to look like small Hondas of yore and is a 100 per cent electric application. Also at the Honda pavilion was the FCX Clarity, which showed the progress Honda has made on fuel-cell technology.
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