Honda's Skydeck: A two-abreast hybrid minivan with room for six. (Honda photo)
Given the worldwide recession, it's not surprising that the Tokyo Motor Show, on now, is playing host to very few non-Japanese manufacturers. Auto shows are an extravagance, and Japan is a long way away. But despite that, it's still one of the greenest auto shows in recent memory. Everybody's showing off electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars.
One of the most interesting vehicles on display is a new and bigger-than-Prius hybrid from Toyota, the Sai. And like the Prius, it's a ground-up design not based on a previously released platform. The car, which gets a stellar 54 mpg, goes on sale in Japan in December, and Toyota expects to sell 3,000 a month. It's unlikely it will come to the U.S. anytime soon.
Toyota has a good start in hybridizing its entire product lineup. A month ago, it announced a hybrid version of the Auris, a Corolla-sized car not sold in the U.S. With a version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy drivetrain, it promises not only fuel economy in the mid-70s but carbon dioxide emissions under 100 grams per kilometer.
Nissan showed off -- or at least discussed -- four new electrics in a floor speech by CEO Carlos Ghosn. The forthcoming Nissan Leaf battery EV, to be sold in major markets beginning at the end of next year, was front and center, of course (though the car on display was a non-running glider). The Leaf starts a national U.S. tour next month. An intriguing announcement in Tokyo was a luxury four-seat Infiniti battery car, doubtless drawing heavily on the Leaf. No date or target markets were specified. Infiniti spokesman Kyle Bazemore said the car would have a performance edge.
Another Nissan entry is the amusing LandGlider, a battery-powered one-seater that leans into corners. If a Smart was put into a vise it would come out something like this. You could undoubtedly park two of them side by side in a conventional parking space, and that is apparently what Nissan has in mind when it said the car can "reduce traffic congestions and promote effective use of parking space."
Honda went loopy with the HELLO! Zone, a display of alternative technologies. HELLO Stands for Honda Electric Mobility Loop, and visitors are able to sample solar panels, zero-emission EVs and "the low-carbon society of the near future." The cars include the fuel-cell FCX Clarity, which isn't new, but these are: The EV-N battery car, the EV-Cub motorcycle, the EV-MONPAL electric personal mobility device. The sporty and sexy CR-Z hybrid concept car we've seen before, but all-new is the Skydeck, a six-passenger multi-purpose hybrid minivan with three rows of two-abreast seats. The company needs a hybrid minivan for the U.S.
Honda is still very bullish on fuel cells. Honda's Takanobu Ito told Reuters, "Hydrogen fuel-cell cars will prove to be the best in the end. Electric vehicles will also be a core option for cars in the future." Here's a video preview:
I'd love to get my hands on the Segway-type U3-X, a one-wheel thing that "uses balance control technology developed through the ASIMO bipedal humanoid robot." How I wish I was in Tokyo right now. Did I forget to mention Honda's LOOP portable communications tool?
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.