Toyota invests in US car-sharing company

October 28, 2016

Leading Japanese car-maker Toyota Motor Corp has invested a reported USD 10 million in the U.S. car-sharing company Getaround, Reuters said on Friday.

A popular carsharing service in Germany

A popular carsharing service in Germany

The deal was done through the company’s investment fund, Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership set up in 2015 to invest in startups working on Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and hydrogen power.

The car sharing service, founded in San Francisco, US, was launched to the public in 2011 and has been available in San Francisco, Chicago and other US cities since 2013. It offers drivers the opportunity to rent cars from private owners in return for payment.  Owners earn 60 per cent commission on the rental prices they set. The company says it now has around 200,000 members.

According to Reuters, Toyota’s investment comes as automakers “seek to shore up their presence in new technology sectors amid growing competition from transport start-ups”.

Automakers have been scrambling to partner with tech firms to head off competition from self-driving cars and car sharing services that threaten to eventually trim demand for car ownership,” the report said.

Other companies in the automotive sector have shown interest in similar services in recent years.  General Motors Co set up its own car-sharing service, Maven, in January this year. Around the same time, Volkswagen transferred its own service called Quicar, set up in 2011, to Dutch project Greenwheels in which it has a 60 per cent share.  Audi has recently also announced plans to launch a similar service in 2017.

Source: Reuters

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Nissan launches electric cars in China

September 12, 2014

Nissan Motor Co. has launched an electric car known as the Venucia on to the Chinese market. In doing so, it becomes the first Japanese automobile company to sell such an eco-friendly car in China – the largest vehicle market in the world.

Nissan collaborated with Chinese automaker Dongfeng Motor Co. to develop the Venucia e30.

‘With Nissan Global’s advanced technology, sales experience and know-how of electric vehicle, the Venucia e30 has been locally developed through our careful studies about market situations and consumer needs in China‘ said Jun Seki, President of Dongfeng Motor Co.

The Venucia is closely based on the Leaf electric car launched in Japan in 2010, and functions in a similar manner, despite having undergone some styling alterations. The Venucia can be fully charged in 4 hours via a household socket and is thought to be 7 times more economical than petrol models in the country. After a full-charge, the car can travel up to 175km. 

Nissan will manufacture the vehicle at a factory in Guangzhou and hopes to sell 50,000 of the models in 2018. By this time, the company also aims to have taken a 20% share of the Chinese market for electric vehicles.

The Venucia will retail at around 267,800 yuan, or around ¥4.7 million (GBP 27,000), for the cheapest model, and will be eligible for the Chinese government’s tax exemption for electric cars –  introduced to help reduce air pollution in the country.

‘I am looking forward to seeing the Venucia e30 lead China’s electric-vehicle market into the future and also to more development of new energy vehicles and the wide adoption of electric vehicles in China.’ said Seki.

Sources: The Japan Times; EV Fleet World

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Bhutan looks to Japan for help in introducing electric vehicles

July 3, 2014

The tiny Asian nation of Bhutan has a very big goal, to convert the country’s vehicles to electric power. The Bhutanese people’s culture has a deep respect for the environment, which is reflected in the Prime Minister’s decision in favour of zero emission vehicles.

Currently Bhutan’s main export is clean electricity from hydroelectric plants, which is sold to neighboring India. But most of the revenue from those sales at present goes to importing fossil fuels for transportation.

Following an economic crisis, the kingdom banned the import of new vehicles in March 2012, and subsequently imposed a “green tax” on all vehicles: 20 percent on those with engines of 1.8 liters or more, 5 percent on those below.

Prime Minister Tobgay announced his plan to reduce the country’s oil imports by 70 percent last December. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn followed this in February with an announcement of an agreement between the nation and the carmaker to provide electric vehicles for the country.

The opportunity to sell zero-emission electric cars was underscored by the Japanese carmaker Nissan’s simultaneous announcement that it had appointed a national sales company for the kingdom, named Thunder Motors. Nissan and Thunder will work together to develop localized versions of the company’s electric vehicles designed for conditions in the Himalayan nation, whose average elevation is 8,000 feet above sea level.

The first stage of the program is for Nissan Leaf electric cars to become both Bhutanese government vehicles and taxi cabs in the capital city of Thimphu.The Nissan Leaf is the most successful electric car in history, with over 100,000 sold.

Based on World Bank data for 2009, Bhutan has just 46 passenger vehicles per 1,000 people, meaning that its 742,000 citizens operate roughly 34,000 cars. Ghosn announced that Nissan hopes to sell “hundreds of cars” in the short term and “thousands” soon thereafter.

Though Nissan is be the world’s largest producer of battery-electric vehicles,  it will not have an exclusive on electric-car imports to Bhutan.

The Nissan CEO told Green Car Reports: “We welcome others, Nissan is most able to compete when buyers compare the performance, price, and customer satisfaction of the Leaf against any other electric vehicle.”

The big picture, Ghosn suggested, is that Bhutan can provide an inspiration, perhaps even a model, for emerging nations as they look toward expanding vehicle sales.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged this week that the “government and private sector of Japan will examine what we can do” to support Bhutan’s plan to introduce electric vehicles.

Tobgay is the first prime minister of Bhutan to make an official visit to Japan since the two nations established diplomatic relations in 1986. On his recent visit Tobgay said he told Abe that Bhutan wants to introduce the vehicles to help conserve the environment and to reduce spending on oil imports.

Tobgay also took the time to convey his country’s appreciation for a recently signed grants agreement with Japan for underprivileged farmers.

“This assistance has been instrumental in improving the livelihood of farmers through increased productivity, and contributing to the nation’s effort to achieve food self-sufficiency and security,” he said.

During the talks, Abe also briefed Tobgay on Japan’s intention to become a “proactive contributor to peace” through international cooperation, in the light of China’s apparent willingness to pursue claims for territory and other resources in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to the U.N. Charter and its purposes, including the peaceful settlement of disputes based on the principle of international law,” Tobgay said.

 

Sources: Japan Times, Green Car Reports

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Hydrogen cars have the edge on Electric

June 5, 2014

Toyota Motor Corp will next year launch a hydrogen-powered car in the United States, Japan and Europe. For now, people at Toyota are calling it the 2015 FC car, for fuel-cell.

Hydrogen fuel-cell cars will cost significantly more than conventional cars and there are currently few refuelling stations. But Toyota believes that when they are compared to the other zero-emissions alternative, battery-powered electric vehicles, or EVs, fuel cells suddenly don’t look so bad.

Fuel-cell cars use a “stack” of cells that electro-chemically combine hydrogen with oxygen to generate electricity that helps propel the car. Their only emission, apart from heat, is water vapor, they can run five times longer than battery electric cars, and it takes just minutes to fill the tank with hydrogen – far quicker than even the most rapid charger can recharge a battery electric car.

“With the 2015 FC car we think we’ve achieved a degree of dominance over our rivals,” Satoshi Ogiso, a Toyota managing director, said in a recent interview at the group’s global headquarters. “With the car, we make a first giant step” toward making fuel-cell vehicles practical for everyday use.

What’s more, executives and engineers say Toyota is willing to sell the car at a loss for a long while to popularize the new technology – just as it did with the Prius, which, with other hybrids, now accounts for 14 percent of Toyota’s annual sales, excluding group companies, of around 9 million vehicles.

As a result, drivers in key “green” markets such as California may be able to buy the car for a little more than $30,000-$40,000, after government subsidies – if management approves a pricing strategy put forward by a group of managers and engineers. General Motors Co’s Chevrolet Volt, a near-all-electric plug-in hybrid, for comparison, starts at around $35,000 in the United States.

“It really provides all the benefits of a plug-in EV without the range anxiety and without the time it takes to recharge it,” says Bill Fay, group vice president of the Toyota division, in a interview at the Chicago Auto Show.

Since most battery-powered cars are limited to about 100 miles per charge, the term “range anxiety” has come to mean the worries that owners face about running out of juice before they can limp home or to a public charging station. Hydrogen cars can go hundreds of miles on a fillup, and the fillup only takes about five minutes, Fay points out.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, the 67-year-old “father of the Prius” whose success catapulted him from mid-level engineer to Toyota board chairman, says technology inefficiencies will make the battery electric car little more than an “errands car” – a small run-around for shopping, dropping the kids at school and other short-haul chores.

As with battery electric cars, a major challenge for fuel-cell automakers is a lack of infrastructure, with few hydrogen fuel stations in the world. Estimates vary, but it costs about $2 million to build a single hydrogen fuel station in the United States, according to Toyota executives.

At present, California, the state that once had planned a “hydrogen highway” of stations, has nine. But the state has plans to vastly increase the network, says Bob Carter, a senior vice president for Toyota.

Studies have shown, he says, that fewer stations than might be expected can support the needs of a lot of drivers. As few as 68 is enough to meet the needs of drivers of 10,000 cars.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars, Carter says, will “fundamentally change” how America thinks about alternative fuel vehicles.

However, many automobile manufacturers are staking their future on battery electric cars including Nissan Motor Co, Tesla Motors Inc, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG,GM, Ford Motor Co and Chinese automakers backed by the country’s industrial policymakers. China offers generous purchase incentives for those buying battery electric cars and aims to have 5 million “new energy” vehicles – mostly all-electric and near all-electric plug-in hybrids – on the road by 2020.

Tesla chief Elon Musk has said hydrogen is an unsuitable fuel for cars. In a videotaped speech last year to employees and others at a new Tesla service center in Germany, Musk said: “Fuel-cell is so bullshit. Hydrogen is a quite dangerous gas. It’s suitable for the upper-stage rocket, but not for cars.”

Even Toyota only expects tens of thousands of fuel-cell cars to be sold each year a decade from now as the new technology will need time to gain traction. Ogiso says Toyota has cut the platinum use per car by more than two-thirds through nanotechnology and stack-design improvements, and he expects to trim that further. Engineer Hitoshi Nomasa said a hydrogen-powered Toyota SUV now uses around 30 grams of platinum in the fuel-cell, down from 100 grams previously. Platinum currently costs $1,437 an ounce (28 grams) on world markets.

Toyota has also borrowed spare parts from the Prius and other gasoline-electric hybrids it sells around the world. While the fuel-cell car uses hydrogen as fuel, it otherwise resembles the hybrid models as both use electricity to power their motors.

While costs have come down significantly, Toyota says a hydrogen car’s fuel-cell propulsion system alone still costs it close to $50,000 to produce. That’s partly why some Toyota money managers want a more conservative pricing strategy – of $50,000-$100,000 – said one individual on the 2015 FC car launch team.

“It might be tough to price it below $50,000,” Ogiso said. “But anything is possible at this point.”

 

Sources: USA Today, Business Insider, Toyota Co.

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Toyota pioneers recycling technology as global copper supply faces exhaustion

April 28, 2014

With only an estimated 40 years’ worth of minable copper reserves remaining worldwide. Global supplies are under threat and copper use is on the rise. Copper is increasingly being used for power transmission lines and other purposes in emerging nations, raising concerns in the near future copper prices will soar. Copper currently accounts for almost half of a vehicle’s wiring assembly, which extends between 3 and 5 kilometers and weighs 10 kilograms, excluding the plastic covering and other components. The wire harness is used for various electronic controls, including brakes. To counter future difficulties in supply the Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota . has developed a pioneering technology to recycle copper from vehicles amid fears that the global supply of the resource will eventually run out.  Toyota aims to stem the outflow of the valuable resource through its recycling technology The recycling process involves crushing a vehicle’s wiring assembly and sorting the copper by examining differences in buoyancy and using magnets. The recycling technology produces copper with a purity of 99.96 percent that can be reused in new automobiles, Toyota said. Until now, the copper removal procedure had to be done manually due to the complex structure of the wire assembly, or harness. The enormous costs for domestic recycling forced Toyota to export car components containing copper to recyclers in countries such as China where labor costs are lower. Toyota has made arrangements to collect wire harnesses from auto-dismantling companies. Autoparts maker Yazaki Corp. will produce new wire harnesses using the recycled copper. Toyota started its copper recycling project in 2013. Since then over 200,000 Toyota vehicles have used recycled copper for part of their wire harnesses. The automaker says it plans to increase annual production of recycled copper to about 1,000 tons, enough for about 2 million cars, by 2016. Source: The Asahi Shinbun   TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds. For translation and interpreting services in Japanese, please visit oursister site, The Japanese Connection.   Members of: ATCITIProz See our LinkedIn profile or visit us on Twitter


Air-powered Lego car driven through suburban Melbourne

January 6, 2014

What do you get if you cross a Romanian technologist, an Australian entrepreneur, 40 investors and 500,000 plastic bricks? A real car made entirely of Lego of course! 

Running on 4 air-powered Lego engines, 256 Lego pistons, only the wheels and a couple of gauges are not constructed from Lego. The car, dubbed the Super Awesome Micro project, is the brain-child of Romanian “teenager” Raul Oaida and Australian technology enthusiast Steve Sammartino, who met on the internet and came up with the idea. Knowing they lacked the necessary funds to complete the project, Sammartino sent out the following tweet. “Anyone interested in investing $500 – $1,000 in a project which is awesome and a world first tweet me. Need about 20 participants.” 40 Australians willingly contributed cash to the project (which ended up costing $60,000 in Lego bricks alone!)

The pair built the car in Romania over 18 months and shipped it to Australia. After reassembling some of the major components once there, the pair drove it, at up to 20km/hr through the streets of suburban Melbourne – all the while a little anxious about a potential Lego explosion. None came, however, and the car has since attracted a lot of attention from Lego-lovers the world over.

“This can’t have been an easy thing to make, let alone to make move. The engine in particular must have required some innovative thinking,” said Matt Saunders, deputy road test editor of Autocar magazine.

This invention is perhaps the technological equivalent of art for art’s sake: not very useful but a sheer wonder to behold!

Why not have a look at the car in action?

Sources Include: BBC News; YouTube

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Japanese e-tricycles could help The Philippines cut carbon emissions by two thirds

October 14, 2013

Motorized tricycles are a popular form of passenger transport on the nation’s roads in the Phillipines, carrying between four to nine passengers, they are a common sight all over the country from the residential areas of the capital Manila, to the countryside’s highways. However, an Asian Development Bank study shows these gasoline-fueled tricycles are responsible for more than two-thirds of all air pollution generated by the country’s entire transport sector, and without intervention, the carbon emissions are set to almost quadruple in less than 25 years.

To stall carbon emissions and cut down on the noise pollution the tricycles cause the country will soon begin implementing a plan to replace 100,000 gasoline-burning, air-polluting tricycles by 2016. The Philippine government hopes the e-tricycle project will cut down on noise, save more than $100 million a year in fuel imports, create jobs through local production of e-tricycles and decrease annual carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 260,000 tons.

The  Japanese electric vehicles maker and distributor Uzushio Electric Co. is making a bid to distribute electric tricycles in the Philippines. Tokushi Nakashima, head of BEET Philippine Inc., a local subsidiary of Uzushio Electric Co., told a press conference on Monday that his company has submitted a bid to the Asian Development Bank, which is providing $300 million toward the e-tricycle project being carried out in cooperation with the Philippine government.

The company, which opened in March, also registered its e-trike model with the Philippines’ Land Transportation Office, affirming its roadworthiness and making it accessible for interested private consumers.

Nakashima said Uzushio Electric, having developed more than 50 models of electric vehicles in Japan, is ready to help the Philippines solve its environmental woes through participation in the project, while at the same time improve the lives of tricycle drivers who are expected to take home a bigger daily income because electricity costs less than gasoline.

BEET’s e-tricycle is made of five key components, which satisfy the requirements for the Philippines’ various road and weather conditions: a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, an AC motor, an inverter, a vehicle control unit, and a battery management system.

Weighing around 500 kg, it accommodates up to seven people including the driver, runs at speeds of up to 60 kph and can cover 50 km on a single charge.

BEET Philippine announced that it had also tied up with Softbank Mobile Corp. to develop a billing system for lease or loan payment, as well as the integration of an advanced telecommunication system to track the trikes. The company is now in talks with potential assemblers in the Philippines in preparation for mass production, though whether the bid is successful or not remains to be seen.

Source: The Japan Times

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