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Japanese automakers to showcase green vehicles at Tokyo Motor Show

11 Comments
By Patrice Novotny

The Tokyo Motor Show kicks off Wednesday with Japanese automakers showcasing their latest electronic technology and green cars aimed at the growing low-emissions sector.

The biennial event, held from Nov 20 to Dec 1 at Tokyo Big Sight, features domestic makers of passenger cars, commercial vehicles and trucks alongside most of their European competitors.

A total of 177 exhibitors, including parts suppliers, from a dozen countries will be part of the event's 43rd edition.

But U.S.-based automakers, which have not attended since before the global financial crisis, are staying away again, as are South Korean producers, with the exception of Hyundai.

Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, will be among the major firms at the show, after recovering from a series of crises in recent years including the global meltdown, Japan's quake-tsunami disaster and the recall of millions of vehicles. The recalls badly dented Toyota's reputation for safety and quality.

A policy blitz under Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has helped stoke optimism over the economy as the yen slumped, boosting the profits of major exporters including Toyota.

However, Japan's No. 2 automaker Nissan, part-owned by France's Renault, has chopped its earnings outlook with its bid to tap emerging markets yet to reap big rewards.

A recent management shuffle also stoked questions about confidence in the leadership of long-time Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn.

The big European firms will have a close eye on boosting their presence in the world's third-largest car market after China and the United States.

However, foreign brands hold a miniscule share -- just 4.5% -- of a market that saw more than 5 million vehicles sold in Japan last year.

That puny presence has long stoked anger among U.S. and some European automakers, which say they have been effectively shut out of Japan through tariffs and other barriers. The simmering issue is a key obstacle in ongoing free-trade negotiations.

Luxury German brands including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche, which have seen significant success in Japan, will be among this year's attendees along with Audi, Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot-Citroen, Britain's Land Rover and Sweden's Volvo.

The show will focus heavily on high-tech offerings and environmental technologies as firms look to tap the burgeoning green-vehicle sector, seen as the next evolution of the global automotive industry.

"Cars without a driver, electronic driving assistance, radar, fuel consumption controls -- the link between cars and electronics is coming together more and more," said auto expert Tatsuya Mizuno, head of Tokyo's Mizuno Credit Advisory.

"The competition among electronics firms in the automobile market is increasing, just like their influence on the industry itself. This is going to mean changes in the way cars are built and even their design."

A pioneer of hybrid vehicles, Toyota is set unveil its latest fuel-cell concept car with an expected commercial rollout two years away.

The four-seater sedan has a range of 500 kilometers -- longer than previous versions -- and can be recharged in just three minutes through hydrogen gas tanks stored inside the vehicle.

Fuel cell vehicles are considered the holy grail of green cars because they emit nothing but water vapor from the tailpipe and can operate on renewable hydrogen gas.

Toyota's concept vehicle seeks to jump two key hurdles that analysts say have hindered consumer buying of so-called green cars, including electric vehicles -- range and refueling infrastructure.

Relatively high prices have also dented demand.

However, purchases of low-emission vehicles are forecast to grow, with further technological advances in the field seen as crucial due to toughening emissions standards.

"Fuel-cell cars are actually pretty expensive, but if manufacturers can cut those costs they have more potential (than electric vehicles) because they don't produce any carbon emissions," Mizuno said, noting that polluting fossil fuels are often burned to create electricity.

Apart from Toyota, other automakers are also eying a widespread commercial offering including rival Honda, which already has a fuel-cell car, the FCX Clarity, available on a small scale in limited markets.

© Japan Today

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11 Comments
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so they painted all their cars green? what nuances are available?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A bit contradictory really

That puny presence has long stoked anger among U.S. and some European automakers, which say they have been effectively shut out of Japan through tariffs and other barriers. The simmering issue is a key obstacle in ongoing free-trade negotiations.

and then goes on to say some have significant success as below

Luxury German brands including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche, which have seen significant success in Japan, will be among this year’s attendees along with Audi, Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot-Citroen, Britain’s Land Rover and Sweden’s Volvo.

So maybe its not about any tariffs it's about quality, Benz, BMW and Porsche are quality and having significant success, while the Americans moan and grizzle about tariffs, perhaps if they raised their quality things maybe be different for them.

Doesn't seem to be the Germans continuously gripping about tariffs.

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Shrek green, Monsters Inc Mike green, Oscar the Grouch green, and just plain old Puke green.

I hope Toyota can nail the fuel-cell car... Honda's FCX is great, but without other makers getting in on the action, costs will remain high and the infrastructure to support them will never materialise. With Toyota's backing however, it may shake up the hybrid market.

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If the "renewable" hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen, the fuel cell is basically a battery requiring electricity to charge it, and other electric cars are just as Green. I am waiting for an electric/flywheel hybrid in which the momentum energy now lost in braking spins a flywheel. This energy stored in the spinning flywheel is then applied when accelerating. A good flywheel can store and transfer 80% of the energy now lost when slowing, and can store this energy by spinning for up to 2 hours after stopping. This means a small electric motor operating at a fairly uniform speed can maintain the vehicle's forward momentum, once the vehicle gets up to speed. Why is this highest efficiency all electric/flywheel system not being produced for stop and go city driving, and for up and down hilly or mountain roads?

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Jim Poushinsky Nov. 19, 2013 - 09:51AM JST Why is this highest efficiency all electric/flywheel system not being produced for stop and go city driving, and for up and down hilly or mountain roads?

A fixed ratio gear transmission or no gears at all is all an EV needs.

Regarding hydrogen cars, many companies were far too optimistic about their prospects and finding out that selling hydrogen cars could not compete on price against traditional transport and energy sources. It's still a heavily subsidized industry. It requires a major federal tax credit to make it work. It still doesn't appeal as a capital market investment. Even as electric car technology has proved disappointing, the clean-tech movement has helped make traditional combustion engines less polluting, with new models showing fuel efficiency gains that are popular with consumers both for environmental and economic reasons. Some of the alternatives is the diesel hybrid with 1.0 to 1.5 litre engine w/tubro-intercooler setup. if you have this set-up on the lightest Toyota Yaris, you probably end up with 30 percent gas milage increase over Toyota Prius.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

StormR

You are aware that the cars you have cited are luxury cars, aren't you? I mean why not add Aston Martin and Ferrari to the list. Porsche are not really competing for the same customers as the average Japanese car. If you want to prove your point that there are no barriers you'll have to use some better examples.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Mini ( hardly a luxury car ) is owned by BMW, BMW 1 series is hardly a luxury car as is smaller Benz models.

Point is why do the European makes out do the American makes here, its a level playing field for them both.

Answer is because American cars are rubbishy. No argument can change that.

Will be at this Motor Show tomorrow too for press day.

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sfjp330 says "A fixed ratio gear transmission or no gears at all is all an EV needs".

If 80% of the momentum when slowing down can be recovered and used when accelerating, then the amount of electrical energy required is reduced accordingly. This means a smaller electric motor and greater range on batteries for electric vehicles equipped with flywheels to store braking energy.

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Jim Poushinsky Nov. 20, 2013 - 08:09AM JST If 80% of the momentum when slowing down can be recovered and used when accelerating, then the amount of electrical energy required is reduced accordingly. This means a smaller electric motor and greater range on batteries for electric vehicles equipped with flywheels to store braking energy.

How much efficiency do you need? Can you tell me what manufacturer produce such a vehicle as you described? Nissan Leaf EV uses a single-speed automatic transmission. It's rated at 130 miles per gallon "equivalent" in the city and 100 mpg on the highway and fully electric range of up to 100 miles (160km).

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I'm holding out for the 2015 model DeLorean that runs on garbage.

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To sfjp330 - No vehicle manufacturer uses a flywheel to store energy. The technology does exist. A model developed by engineers associated with the University of Ottawa Canada is capable of delivering 110 hp. Use of flywheels in vehicles would greatly reduce energy needs whether from fossil fuels, electricity, or hydrogen fuel cells. Conservation of energy by creation of more efficient machinery makes good sense to most people, so I keep asking, why aren't auto-makers utilizing fly-wheels?

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