Japan tests ultra-compact cars

Featured Weekender - June 20th, 2012
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Japanese car makers showcased their ultra-compacts on a test-drive to win the transport ministry’s approval, Asahi Shimbun reports. Bicycles may have to watch out, there are some new challengers for road space.

Ultra-compacts from Nissan Motor Co., Toyota Auto Body Co., Honda Motor Co., Daihatsu Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp. will soon roll down public roads if the ministry gives the go-ahead. These mini vehicles come 2.3m long and 1.2 m wide and seat up to three people and are electrically powered.

Toyota’s one-person Coms Concept is already on the Japanese public roads, with 2,000 sales since it was unveiled in 2000. The Coms’ engineering is based on motorized bicycles, while the new ‘ultra-compacts’ are based on mini vehicles. Nissan developed the two-seater New Mobility Concept while Honda’s ultra-compact is a three-seater.

The government plans to allow the mini vehicles for certain services: older people going on grocery shopping, short-distance deliveries and tourists going around. Ultra-compacts were initially prohibited from public roads because they do not meet collision safety standards.