Glorified golf carts? Or a serious alternative to commuting short distances in bulky gas guzzlers? Here's a look at compact EVs and similar rides on display at the Tokyo Motor Show.
Japanese automakers have been experimenting with ultra-compact electric cars that are seen as ideal for short-distance commutes and easy to park because of their small footprint. Several of these, along with similar concept rides, are on view at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show this week.
Honda's MC-beta is an update to its Micro Commuter Concept from 2011. It seats two people and has a top speed of about 43 mph, and a range of some 50 miles. Its lithium ion battery can be charged in less than three hours at 200 V or less than seven hours at 100 V, according to Honda.
The MC-beta's interior is hardly roomy, but there's room for a bit of luggage on the back seat. During a test drive at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the vehicle showed surprising pep, along with a nice little electric humming sound.
Honda said it will start testing the MC-beta in Kumamoto Prefecture, Saitama City, and Miyakojima City in Japan from November 2013.
Toyota's i-Road is somewhat of a cross between a car and a motorcycle. The 7.7-foot-long two-seater has an active lean system that changes the height of the front wheels to ensure stability on turns.
The i-Road is slated to be tested in Japan and France next year, according to Toyota.
Visitors to the Smart Mobility City at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show test-drive a Nissan New Mobility Concept EV.
The vehicles are also being used in a pilot project in the city of Yokohama that has seen about 3,000 people sign up to rent them at about 20 cents a minute.
Toyota debuted a number of vehicles including the 9-foot-long FV2, a Light Cycle-style one-seater with a hatch that closes over the driver. It calls this a "future connectivity concept."
Designed to be like a futuristic horse that has a physical and emotional connection to the driver, the FV2 doesn't have a steering wheel. Instead, it responds to the driver's movements such as forward and back or left and right. It also uses voice and image recognition to determine his or her mood, accumulated driving history to suggest destinations, and driving skill information to assist the user.
Meanwhile, the exterior is covered with touch-panel displays that can be changed at will. Inside, an augmented-reality windshield provides information such as navigation data and safety warnings.
Toyota Auto Body debuted the two-seater version of its Coms super-compact EV at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. With a top speed of 31 mph and a range of 31 miles on a full, six-hour charge, it's designed for commuting short distances.
Single-seat versions of the Coms, which Toyota Auto Body sells for around $7,400 in Japan, are used by everyone from farmers to social workers.
Speaking of glorified golf carts, that's exactly what this design concept from Bridgestone is. While it's not an EV per se, this trike can carry cargo (such as the golf clubs seen in the rear) and provides the rider with electrical power-assist.
That will give you a bit of a boost when you're pedaling between holes on the golf course.