Japan Charges Ahead With Electric Cars

By Brendan Moore


They’re not just talking about using electric cars (EVs) for everyday driving in Japan, they’re doing something.

Subaru R1e

Subaru R1e

Most people are not aware of just how quickly mass-produced electric cars will be available in Japan. Both Mitsubishi and Subaru will offer an electric car for sale in Japan next year, with Nissan following in 2010. Mitsubishi’s offering will be the MiEV, a small hatchback, and Subaru’s market entry will be the R1e minicar. Nissan plans to sell their EV in 2010 in at least the Japanese and U.S. markets, and perhaps other markets as well. And although it’s not an EV, it’s a PHEV (plug-in hybrid vehicle), Toyota’s plug-in version of the hot-selling Prius will also make its debut in 2010 in Japan.

With this in mind, private utilities, car manufacturers and the Japanese government are all building infrastructure to support electric vehicles. The aim is to assuage concerns about using EVs as everyday transportation and to promote greater adoption of electric vehicles. It is expected that the vast majority of EV owners will charge their cars at night using a household socket, but actions are being taken to provide charging outlets at parking lots, parking garages, supermarkets, restaurants, etc. for those drivers that may need to go further distances than what a normal battery charge will take them.

There is also a interesting development the area of in quick-charge technology. Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power), the large utility company that provides electric service in Japan’s capital region, says it has developed a relatively inexpensive ($36,500 USD) device that can provide enough power during a five-minute charge to give an EV another 40km (25 miles) of travel. Ten minutes of the quick-charge gives the vehicle another approximate 60km (37 miles) of travel. If the company’s claims pan out, this type of performance increase for quick-charge systems would be an huge improvement over existing systems.

It is believed that Tepco plans to install a minimum of 1000 of these recharging stations in the Greater Tokyo Metro Area in the next three years. The $36,500 cost is “all-in”, including construction and will be shared by the site operator. It is reported as well that the dealerships retailing the EVs will also have the Tepco recharging devices, but it is not know whether or not those are included in the overall number of recharging stations available to the public.

The Japanese government is also firmly behind the push for electric vehicles. Yasuo Fukuda, Japan’s prime minister, has a goal of having half of all new road vehicles sold by 2020 to be powered by something other than petroleum-based products. That means no gasoline and no diesel. The Japanese government is also nudging Japan Post to switch their fleet of over 21,000 delivery vehicles to electric power. The government is planning to offer consumers greatly reduced rates of taxation and registration for EVs. And the government is doing its best to convince private companies engaged in business segments connected to car ownership to give discounts to electric vehicle owners on things like tolls, insurance, parking, installment loans, etc.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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  1. Politicians in America talk big about alternative energy cars, but do nothing. The Japanese seem to be getting it done, even if it is getting done quietly.

    I know the big utility in california has plans to install cargers embedded in the curb in San Francisco, and I thnk they’re planning on doing the same thing in Portland OR and Seattle, WA, but where is the federal government with their big push with incentives?

  2. To answer as you like it, the federal government has been controlled by Cheney and company for a while, so that’s why nothing has been done by the feds.


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