Electric Vehicles (EV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) as next-generation cars are integral to advanced mobile societies with ITS technologies including re-charging facilities network. Below are the latest updates by the Japanese government and auto-manufacturers of EVs and PHEVs.

Directions by the government – Budget: April 2011 – March 2012

On 1 December 2010 Japanese governments held an evaluation meeting to classify 189 projects into four categories. The budgets of these 189 projects were previously rejected but are now under negotiation to be restored. The specific items for which budgets are to be restored are indicative of the specific fields governments favour. The budgets likely to be restored in the vehicle and traffic field next year belong to items such as subsidies for promoting clean energy vehicles (US$ 120 million) electric vehicle conversion of public transport that include buses and trucks (US$ 5.5 million) development and maintenance of local public transportations (US$ 550 million) etc.

Joint symposium on building EV/PHV-Friendly communities

Broad use of EVs and PHVs will contribute to a low-carbon society to improve the environment in the automotive transport sector through emissions controls.

The Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land Infrastructure Transport and Tourism (MLIT) recently organised a joint symposium on the theme of “EV/PHV-friendly communities” in order to disseminate nationwide the results achieved to date by the METI EV & PHV Town project and the MLIT-led town development project using environment friendly vehicles. The symposium was held at the Kyoto International Conference Centre on Friday 4 February 2011. It was the first ever joint symposium on that theme and comprised one facet of the two ministries’ separate efforts to achieve organic collaboration and information sharing in the context of popularisation of EVs and PHVs.

METI has the “EV & PHV Towns” programme under which local governments proactively work to expand the use of EVs and PHVs and develop a model to popularise the vehicles nationwide using the results obtained from the efforts of the model towns. On the other hand MLIT intends to promote the creation of communities using environment friendly vehicles (electric powered transit buses EVs ultra-mini mobility vehicles) and is conducting demonstration projects in 16 areas across the country in order to study how to address and resolve issues involved in the introduction of environment friendly vehicles as well as the design of urban transport facilities.

Movement in the Market: Electric cars

Carmakers are scrambling to develop zero emission electric vehicles that are expected to be front and centre among next generation eco-cars.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. became the first major automaker to market an electric vehicle with its release of the i-MiEV in summer 2009. Nissan followed suit last year.

Nissan Motor Co. further launched its Leaf electric vehicle in Japan on 20 December 2010 as its first mass produced electric car for the global market.

Honda unveiled the all new Fit EV Concept electric vehicle and the platform for a midsize plug-in hybrid vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show on 17 November 2010 which will be introduced in Japan and the US in 2012. Both vehicles are integral to the Honda Electric Mobility Network the company’s comprehensive approach to reducing CO2 emissions through innovative products energy management and energy production technologies.

Toyota has begun test operations of a fuel cell hybrid bus tested at expressways with one of its subsidiaries Hino Motors Ltd on 16 December 2010. As part of the go-green initiative Toyota is charting out the road trials for its iQ based Electric Vehicles expected to be released in 2012 in the Japanese European Chinese and American markets. Fuji Heavy Industry Ltd. which launched the Subaru Plug-in Stella last year also aims at a mass production of the new vehicle.

Smaller less known local companies are similarly trying to manufacture EVs. An open top custom made one seat retro electric vehicle “Miluira” by Takayanagi Co. in Hamamatsu city Shizuoka prefect has been planned to reach the market this coming April. The small EV manufacturing companies hope in turn that the electric car business will give a jolt to an otherwise stagnating local economy.

This article has been brought to you as part of the cooperation between ERTICO and ITS Japan.

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Original Publication Date: Thu 10 Mar 2011