[Interview] Electric Vehicles Call for Redefinition of Automobiles (1)

Apr 6, 2009
Hideo Ampo, Editorial Staff

While automakers are being forced to review their projects in the midst of the automotive industry crisis, they are still enthusiastic about strongly and extensively developing electric vehicles.

This is because it is necessary to establish technological and operational bases from scratch for developing electric vehicles, which will greatly change the definition of automobiles.

We interviewed Yukitsugu Hirota, technology officer at the Research & Development Center of Calsonic Kansei Corp and asked about the current situation, issues to be solved and the direction of electric vehicle developments. Hirota has been involved in the development of automotive electronics for many years at Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Calsonic Kansei. (Interviewer: Hideo Ampo, editorial staff)

Q: What kind of changes will the commercialization of electric vehicles bring about?

Hirota: Electric vehicles will be one of the means to solve environmental and energy problems. That's why they are called green cars.

Also, they will change the status of automobiles, having an extraordinary impact on the automotive industry. During the past 100 years, functions and structures of automobiles were restricted by engine and transmission. Electric cars, however, are not mounted with an engine or a transmission. Therefore, automobiles that are outside the framework of automobiles will emerge.

For example, an automobile that is positioned somewhere between a light car, electric wheelchair and electric bicycle, could emerge as "Easy Transporter." This vehicle is expected to find good markets in urban areas of advanced countries, rural areas of Japan, where the percentage of elderly population is high, and emerging countries.

Futhermore, there is a possibility that a so-called "Super Surface-craft" featuring functions that exceed those of existing vehicles will surface in the market.

There are many examples, including an eight-wheeled supercar being developed by Keiko University, a convoy driving vehicle, which is an ultra small vehicle that can be ITS-controlled for convoy driving like a train to reduce air resistance and the number of drivers, and Nissan's "PIVO 2", a new type of vehicle (mobility) created through the fusion with robotics, which was much talked about in the previous Tokyo Motor Show.

Q: What are the issues in developing electric vehicles?

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