Nissan BladeGlider

2013 Tokyo Motor Show: Do the Concepts Shine A Light On Cars of the Future?

It’s not exactly a secret that I’m not the biggest fan of concept cars – especially those that are displayed to great press frenzy at motor shows. I can be found on a fair few episodes of Transport Evolved ranting at how useless they are as a barometer of technological progress. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing stopping a manufacturer claiming unrealistic ranges, using materials that can’t be mass produced and throwing in technologies that are, at best, ‘in development’.

“Look at our new electric car, it’s built using nano-wire spun carbon and can travel 400 miles with just a 8kWh battery pack.”

But one point even I do give to concept cars, is they can be used to forecast the potential direction car makers are heading in.

The Tokyo Motor Show seems to be highlighting a trend in motoring, that is the trend of personal transportation – or at least transportation that is more efficient if only one person is travelling.

Personally it was the Renault Twizy that first turned me on to personal transportation. My Nissan Leaf made me realise how inefficient driving a petrol car was in terms of energy usage; The Twizy made me realise how inefficient driving a 1.5 – 2 Tonne car is to go to the shops and back.

It seems a few other manufacturers may be thinking along the same lines.

Leaning into a Corner

Leaning into a Corner

Toyota i-Road

Although this was first displayed at the Geneva Motor Show this year it had a second unveiling at the Tokyo Motor Show this week. Looking a little like the Twizy, the i-Road is also a tandem ‘car’. Technically it is a trike, having two wheels at the front and one at the back. The i-Road even leans into corners to keep it stable!

In terms of stats, the trike is driven by two 2kW motors which are mounted to the twin front wheels. Top speed is limited to 28mph (45kmh) and the given range is about 30 miles (48km) – although some quick Googling – I’m really that interested in this concept – shows that there are a few of these about with a higher top speed!

Would You Use One?

Would You Use One?

Honda Uni-Cub

Quite possibly the most personal transport there can me. Essentially this is a moving, electric stool that happens to look a little like a penguin.

Controlled by leaning – a little like a Segway – the device is designed for use inside, such as in offices or larger facilities where walking around would be too tiring. The Uni-Cub has been in testing since 2012 at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.

A slightly smaller version of the Uni-Cub has been created called the Uni-Cub β. This uses a lithium-ion battery to propel the rider at speeds of up to 6kmh (3.73mph) for distances of up to 6km (3.73miles).

I would love a go on one.

Just Glide

Just Glide

Nissan BladeGlider

We’ve talked about the BladeGlider before, and while it isn’t personal transport, it will sure use very little energy to transport a single person around. Based upon the DeltaWing concept this car just ‘glides’ through the air and over the road due to its incredibly low drag coefficient.

It has been confirmed at the Tokyo Motor Show that this car – in some ‘toned down’ form will make it into production within three years and be below the price of the 370Z.

It will be very interesting to see how this moves from concept to production and how it changes along the way. With more car makers brining out ‘sporty’ EVs, it certainly will have to be something special to stand out.

Yamaha Motiv

Could You Use a Car Like This?

Could You Use a Car Like This?

Yamaha has revealed their Motiv car, a small two-seater city car to rival the Smart car built using the iSteam platform developed by automotive engineer Gordon Murray. Rumour has it the Motiv is deceptively peppy and feels totally different to its Smart rival.  Not a lot of information is available about the ins and outs of this new concept, but it could be a very good step on the way toward smaller, energy efficient cars.

And finally…

While not a form of personal transportation, it is something that has jumped out at me. I’ve always wondered if hydrogen fuel cells would work for larger vehicles like trucks. When it comes to personal transportation, hydrogen makes very little sense due to the losses of energy involved, but could some of the energy loss be saved if scaled up?

Well, Daihatsu seems to think it might. At the Tokyo Motor Show they have been showing off their FC-Dock – a hydrogen fuel-cell powered mini truck. There are some interesting ideas here – the use of a bottle fuelling system. Just replace the bottle of fuel and you’re off again – no need to work with high-pressure hook up systems.

It is also looks – let’s face it – awesome. It’s like a cross between a Transformer and a child’s drawing of a truck cab. Brilliant.


What do you think about these concepts? Any of them take your fancy?



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  • CDspeed

    The Honda uni-cub should be called the uni-pub, as it does look like the worlds first mass produced mobile bar stool.

  • inter vu

    The Suzuki X-Lander looks promising, if it were to be an e-rev or perhaps a full EV with user swappable battery packs…

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