“There is a lot of waste in our current transportation system—for example, one man driving a four-seat car.”
Ma Jie And Masatsugu Horie - BUSINESSWEEK
- October 8, 2012
Japan, always huge in the business of making compact cars, is thinking even smaller. The so-called ultracompact—picture a street-legal golf cart—this month is set to become Japan’s first new vehicle niche to win government approval in 50 years. That’s drawn the attention of both established automakers and a new generation of startups eager to provide low-powered transportation for Japan’s aging population. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” says Yoshiro Sugimoto, 62, a Toyota Motor (TM) veteran who’s pooled 20 million yen ($254,800) of his and colleagues’ cash in a quest to build Japan’s smallest cars.
Town EV, Sugimoto’s startup, plans to have its 800,000-yen ($10,000) ZEVe ultracompact on the market in Japan next year. The aluminum-framed one-seater prototype is a narrow cart with a windshield, canopy, hatchback-style trunk, and no side windows or doors. It’s designed to travel as far as 50 kilometers (31 miles) when fully charged at a top speed of 50 km per hour. Sugimoto, whose Toyota career included years as an assistant to then-President Shoichiro Toyoda, says sales of the ZEVe should reach 1,000 by 2015, and prices may dip to as low as 600,000 yen per vehicle.... [Read More]