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Offering use of electric and hybrid cars “free of charge.” Carmakers’ advertising their eco-friendly vehicles at G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit

7, 02. 2008

   Electric cars are now drawing the public attention because of the global warming problems and soaring gasoline prices. The 2008 G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit to start on July 7, 2008 will provide Japanese automakers a chance to boast their environment protection technology, and they are ready to offer their hybrid and electric cars as cars for rent free of charge. This shows the competition among them has already started for getting as much market shares as possible in the world.

Honda, Toyota unveil fuel cell cars

Eco-cars carmakers are proud of will be shown at Hokkaido Toyako Summit (Photo shows Mitsubishi Motors’ “iMiEV”)
Eco-cars carmakers are proud of will be shown at Hokkaido Toyako Summit (Photo shows Mitsubishi Motors’ “iMiEV”)

   As the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit, where the "environment protection" will be the major item on the agenda, is getting closer, the Japanese carmakers are disclosing their new strategies for electric cars one after another.

   On June 16, 2008, Honda Motor Co. announced the start of the production of the new fuel cell car "FCX Clarity" in Tochigi Prefecture. The company plans to sell a total of 200 units of the car in Japan and the United States over a period of three years. It will begin selling the car in the United States in July and in Japan in this fall at earliest. The "FCX Clarity" carries the engine powered by the hydrogen-type fuel cell developed by the company on its own. "It took us nearly 10 years to develop the cell," said a person at the public relations department of the company. Honda will provide the Toyako Summit with one unit of the car for free use.

   Toyota Motor Corp., which got ahead of other carmakers by producing the "Prius" hybrid car (HV) that runs on both gasoline and lithium-ion battery, also announced on June 6 the development of hydrogen-type fuel cell HV "Toyota FCHV-abv." One unit of this car will be provided to the summit. In addition, the company will also be offering a total of 78 cars for free use, including a plug-in HV that can be charged from a home socket and the "Lexus," "Crown" and "Estime" HV cars for use by VIP's of the participating countries.

   Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is preparing 10 units of its "iMiEV" cars to be used at the summit. The company announced on June 17 the conclusion of a tie-up with the French major carmaker Peugeot Citroen (PSA) on the development and production of high-performance fuel cell, motor and charger for cars. Through the tie-up, PSA aims at holding the leadership position in Europe in the production of eco-friendly cars by meeting the European CO2 emission control, while Mitsubishi Motors, which has shown its ability in the production of the next-generation fuel cell, will have the advantage of cost reduction by mass production.

   Nissan Motor Co. planning to offer a clean diesel engine-powered "X Trail" car that is to be officially made public in September. The car can be test-driven at the environmental exhibition to be held 19-21 to mark the summit and at the international media center during the summit.

   It is needless to say that the prevention of the global warming is the reason for the carmakers to make efforts for the development of electric cars. Electric cars are drawing attention also over the world as cars for better milage amid hightened enthusiasm of drivers about eco-friendliness and sharp increases in gasoline prices.

   As the reduction in the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission is a global issue, the Electric Vehicle Promotion says that electric cars will sooner or later become the cars "that run in the mainn stream." The Japanese carmakers are making their full efforts to show thei ability to the world against this back ground.

Some carmakers developing fuel cell cars with electric companies

   Efforts for the development of the fuel cell that would be the key component of electric cars are increasing. While some carmakers are developing their own fuel cells independently, such as Honda, some others are forming joint companies with electric companies to develo jointly. Such joint ventures include Panasonic EV Energy formed by Toyota and Matsuchita Electric Industrial, Lithium Energy Japan set up by Mitsubishi Motors, Yuasa GS and Mitsubishi Shoji, and Automotive Energy Supply (AESC) formed by Nissan and NEC.

   "It is necessary to increase the quality levels of fuel cell in order to popularize electric cars. It could be the same as in the case of mobile phones. Small yet powerful batteries are called for," says an auto industry official. Japan is ahead of most of other countries in the world in the fuel cell technology. But the official pointed out there is still room for improvement.

   Against this background, French Renault has revealed its plan to introduce electric cars to be developed by Nissan using high-performance batteries made by AESC in Israel and Denmark in fiscal 2011. Germany's Volkswagen is expected to launch the development works of fuel cell for HV jointly with Japan's Sanyo Elelctric, known for its battery tecknology. "Japan has no few makers which are good at battery making. There may be other formation of groups like the one between Sanyo and Volkswagen," said the auto industry official. Japanese electric companies are also drawing the attention of foreign intests, he added.

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