Concept cars abound at the 2007 Tokyo auto show, and many of them run off electricity. Automakers are working hard to come up with a successful zero-emission vehicle, and these concepts show off their efforts.
The Pivo2 concept shows Japanese automakers' propensity for designing cute cars. This electric car is designed for extreme flexibility in an urban environment. Its cabin rotates 360 degrees on its platform, making a reverse gear unnecessary. The Pivo2 seats three and has a dash-mounted robotic agent that can cheer up the driver.
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Pivo2's powertrain consists of two compact lithium-ion battery packs set under the floorboards providing electricity to four in-wheel motors. Nissan hasn't published any figures on range or speed. The wheels can turn 90 degrees, so you won't need to parallel park the Pivo2.
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Mitsubishi's work on electric cars has gone beyond making them reliable and eco-friendly to actually making them sporty. To enhance this concept's performance, Mitsubishi gave it S-AWC, the company's rally-proven all-wheel-drive system. And the little grilles in front aren't for cooling--they hide small turbines that generate electricity for the car's drive system.
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A flap to the side of the license plate conceals the plug. The i MiEV Sport takes 8.5 hours to charge from a 200-volt source, but a specially developed quick charger can get its batteries up to 80 percent capacity in 35 minutes. The car is also built with a receiver in the undercarriage for a wireless charging system. At full charge, the i MiEV Sport has a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles).
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The G4e represents a serious effort to develop a practical electric car. Subaru claims seating for five, but that many people would be a tight fit. The G4e has a 65-kilowatt motor driving the front wheels, and a lithium-ion battery giving it 200 kilometers range (124 miles). A quick charger gives it an 80 percent charge in 15 minutes, while the onboard charger takes 8 hours to fill the batteries.
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Suzuki's electric powered personal transporter uses four wheels instead of the i-Real's three. We also like that is has a full canopy, which suggests it might be more comfortable during inclement weather than the Toyota machine. But Suzuki envisions the Pixy for use on sidewalks and inside buildings. Walking will be a thing of the past.
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For traveling longer distances, Suzuki pairs the Pixy with the Suzuki Sharing Coach (SSC), which can hold a couple of Pixys. The SSC also uses a hydrogen fuel cell to recharge any Pixys in its cabin.
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Following previous introductions dubbed the i-Unit and i-Swing, Toyota suggests that the name of its new personal transporter indicates it's close to production. i-Real uses an electric drive for its two front wheels, with the third, rear wheel for balance. i-Real has built-in social networking, so you can communicate with other i-Real drivers nearby.
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Toyota calls the i-Real's higher speed stance "highway mode," but we doubt it will go fast enough to keep up with cars. In this mode, the rear wheel extends, lowering the center of gravity. To turn the i-Real, the driver leans in the direction he or she wants to go. Toyota hasn't released specifications for range or top speed.