Cleaner, smarter automobiles are the theme for the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show in Japan, although high performance and downright wacky concept vehicles have also been revealed.
Many of the designs on display at the show will never be made commercially available. However, the event provides insight into the importance many car manufacturers place on certain nascent technologies.
With a handful of hybrid gasoline-electric and fuel-cell powered cars already on the market in the Japan and elsewhere, manufacturers sought to promote even more radical reduced-emission designs.
Building on the popularity of the Prius gasoline-electric hybrid, Toyota demonstrated the Fine-X, a fuel-cell car with wheels that can be independently controlled, enabling it to rotate on the spot. The Fine-X also features wing-like doors that open upwards providing access to the front and back seats simultaneously.
Go to work in an egg
An even more unusual parking trick was revealed by Nissan Motor’s Pivo concept car. This vehicles egg-shaped cabin can swivel 360°, allowing the driver to turn backwards into forwards at the flick of a switch. Central to this idea is drive-by-wire technology – controlling the car electronically, rather than mechanically.
“With the Pivo concept, we want to demonstrate the myriad possibilities that drive-by-wire could achieve,” designer Masato Inoue said at a preview event in September.
Researchers from Tokyo’s Keio University also displayed an eight-wheeled electricity-powered sedan capable of a top speed of 370 kilometres (230 miles) per hour and 0-100 kph (60 mph) in 4.2 seconds. The fastest non-racing electric car ever made, it was constructed in cooperation with the Japanese government and several automobile companies.
Japanese company Mazda revealed a multi-hybrid design – the Premacy Hydrogen RE – a van that can use gasoline, a hydrogen fuel cell or electricity. In addition, the company also took the wraps off a hydrogen-powered version of its RX-8 sports car.
Yamaha also unveiled several reduced-emission two-wheeled designs, including an electricity-powered motorcycle and a hybrid gasoline-electric scooter.
The Deinonychus motorcycle has electric motors in both wheels, which can also be adjusted to provide several possible riding positions. The Gen-Ryu hybrid scooter comes with a 600cc engine as well as distance warning system, a rear-view video display and a navigation system that gives the rider verbal prompts.
Among non-Japanese companies at the show, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the F600 Hygenius, a fuel-cell-powered people transporter that generates enough surplus electricity to power laptop computers, DVD players and other entertainment gizmos in the back. And Volkswagen demonstrated the EcoRacer, a diesel sports car with a 1.5 litre, 136-horse-power turbo engine capable of 111 km (69.2 miles) to the gallon.
But for those who want their cars to be meaner rather than cleaner, Audi showed off the S8 saloon. The sedate-looking car features a Lamborghini engine capable of 445 brake horse power and 0-100 kph in 5 seconds flat. When it goes on sale in Germany in 2006, the car’s top speed will be electronically limited to 250 kph (155 mph).
More outlandish designs at the show include the MINI Tokyo Concept, which features tea-making facilities built into the back half of the chassis.
And finally, Honda demonstrated a car for drivers who really care about their pet. The snub-nosed WOW car is designed for hardcore dog lovers, and features special pooch compartments and floors designed for easy cleaning.