Small is beautiful: Japan's hand-made electric cars
Sunday 07 March 2010
While auto manufacturing giants spend millions to develop environmentally-friendly electric cars, one Japanese company has taken a more low-key approach, crafting hand-made "green" cars.
Takeoka Jidosha Kogei may be the antithesis of the world's Hondas and Nissans. The family-run business makes its cars from scratch in a garage workshop in the snowy foothills in the northwest of the country.
There are no industrial robots or assembly lines in sight. Instead just a dozen mechanics crafting each model by hand, right up to the finishing touch of adding a set of beady headlights to their "Milieu" range.
The cars seem to owe much of their design to Japan's manga cartoon tradition - their one-seater T-10 seems barely large enough for an adult driver, with just enough extra room left for a small pet, as requested by customers.
The box-shaped two-door car - which is dubbed the "Eco-beagle" and comes in green, white, red and canary yellow - has a relatively affordable price tag of 856,000 yen (9,600 dollars).
Company head Manabu Takeoka said he wants to change the image of minicars, which he said "are generally viewed as cars for the elderly, or for drivers who had their normal licences removed due to drunken driving".
"We've improved the shape of our latest model to make it cuter, to attract younger clients," he said.
Like other electric cars, it runs on a lithium-ion battery and can be charged from a conventional wall socket.
The latest model can drive up to 70 kilometres (45 miles) at 60 kilometres per hour when fully charged.
Takeoka's cars are aimed at rural households, which often have more than one car, as opposed to the cities, where more people opt for public transport to avoid the cost of parking.
The Takeoka lineup includes six models made from lightweight fibre-reinforced plastic, ranging from one- to four-seater cars. They measure less than three meters (10 feet) and weigh between 300 and 740 kilograms (660 to 1,600 pounds).
"People who buy our cars use them primarily to run errands or go shopping a few hundred metres from their homes. They don't need to charge the cars on the road if they already did so at home," said Takeoka.
Takeoka began its business in 1981 by building minicars for the disabled.
It started developing the electric cars in the 1990s with help from the local electricity company. Nearby Toyama University has since come on board, helping design the models.
The company also makes electric minicars specially designed for railway companies to inspect tunnels.
The electric cars may be a novelty, but they are unlikely to take the world by storm anytime soon, with sales currently at around 100 vehicles per year.
Asked whether there are plans to ramp up production, Takeoka exclaimed: "The company cannot build that many!"
Life & Style blogs
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time: 10 worst gadgets of recent times
The secret to a great sex life revealed: Two cups of coffee a day
New Zealand 'the best country to work as a prostitute', says sex worker advocacy group
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
Facebook status updates indicates whether a user is narcissistic or neurotic, research finds
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
- 1 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...