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Eco cars take spotlight at Tokyo Motor Show

Japanese carmakers push fuel-efficient vehicles, following the energy shortages caused by the March 11 quake and tsunami disaster.

Toyota's stunning Fun-Vii concept is a four-wheeled display whose appearance can be altered at the touch of a button. Tim Hornyak/CNET

TOKYO--Japanese automakers are highlighting fuel efficiency and environmental technologies at the Tokyo Motor Show, the first one since the March quake and tsunamis led to power shortages in Japan.

Organizers are expecting some 800,000 visitors when the venue opens to the public on Saturday with 176 brands on display.

In addition to the Toyota Fun-Vii concept, a chameleon that can change its appearance at the touch of an app, the carmaker showed off the Aqua compact hybrid, which it says has the world's best fuel efficiency at 35 km per liter (82 mpg) of gas.

Nissan's Pivo 3, meanwhile, can be summoned by smartphone and can park itself automatically. Its Esflow sports concept, shown off earlier this year at the Geneva Auto Show, can do zero to 100 kph (62 mph) in less than five seconds.

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's president, told reporters that "2011 has been an unprecedented year of challenges" yet commended the show for displaying the "resilience and the tenacity of Japan."

Honda, meanwhile, showed off its EV-STER, a two-seater electric convertible with a top speed of 160 kph (99 mph) that can be controlled with two joysticks. Its much slower and compact Micro Commuter comes with a folding scooter with which it shares an interchangeable Loop battery.

Aside from futuristic concepts, there are plenty of outright wacky vehicles on display. From giant headphone-like motors that power wheelchairs to wooden EVs sporting louvered roofs and drawers, there's plenty to gawk at.