It may look like a joke, but a group of companies in Japan is serious about selling an electric car made of traditional materials such as bamboo and paper.
The three-wheeled Meguru (Japanese for "to move") is more of an auto rickshaw than a car, and it's designed for use as a taxi. A driver sits in front, and one or two passengers sit in back on a couch.
Its frame is steel painted with vermilion lacquer, and it evokes the torii gates of Shinto shrines. The flooring is bamboo, and the folding fan doors are crafted from Japanese washi paper. At night, the interior lights glow through the paper doors, giving it a lantern-like appearance.
The Meguru's lithium ion battery takes two hours to charge on a household power supply, and it can travel about 25 miles on a charge. It has a top speed of about 25 mph, and it is registered as a road vehicle in Japan.
The firms plan to mass-produce the Meguru and sell it for less than $10,000. They're touting it as an example of the strength of smaller manufacturers in the Osaka region, which has been hit hard by the economic slump.
The Meguru probably wouldn't look out of place in Japanese cities like Kyoto and Nara, which have traditional neighborhoods as well as old-school rickshaws in the streets. The zero-emission ride will please those who care about the environment, and the paper and bamboo give it an air of old-world craftsmanship.
Just don't drive it off-road into a forest full of pandas.
(Via CScout Japan)