The automotive industry is at a crossroads. Will all cars be electric or will there still be gas and diesels? Is hydrogen the future? Will it all be autonomous cars? Looking towards the future is never an easy task, but it sure is interesting
At this year's 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, Japanese automakers gave us a better glimpse into what the next decade might have in store for the automobile. With a theme called 'Open Future', the 46th Tokyo Motor Show has set its sights on showing just how far we have come with the automobile.
With the show only occuring every two years, getting to see what the Japanese automakers has in store for the next several years will always be a treat. Here's what we saw
A Jazzy appearance
What could have been the most awaited reveal during the show was the unveiling of the all-new Honda Fit (also know as the Jazz in our market). Now on its fourth-generation, the perennial hatchback gets a styling makeover as it no longer looks as sporty as its predecessor. Instead, the fourth-generation model now has a more rounded design. It even comes with 'bug-eye' headlights reminescent of the first-generation Jazz, as well as a new pair of wraparound taillights. In addition, the Japan-spec Fit is powered by a hybrid powertrain, not a naturally-aspirated engine.
With its global debut in Japan, it might not be long before it makes its way to ASEAN markets, us included. But will the ASEAN-spec Jazz come with a hybrid option as well? For now, all we can do is wait until it officially arrives in our region.
Proud of Boxer
No, Subaru didn't reveal an all-new WRX at this year's Tokyo Motor Show, but they did show that turbocharged engines will always have a place in their cars.That's the Subaru Levorg Prototype and its 1.8-liter turbocharged Boxer engine. That's right, Subaru showed a near-production model of the wagon and it looked very promising.
With its sharp exterior, and boosted engine, Subaru is keeping their fans excited with this future offering. Subaru didn't say just how much power the new Levorg makes, but it could more than likely produce more than the old 1.6 turbo Boxer. We're pegging about 180 to 190 horsepower.
Despite the dominance of hybrid and electric vehicles at this year's show, Subaru's bucked that trend with the gas-fed Levorg. Their decision to reveal a turbocharged 'concept' at the 46th Tokyo Motor Show was definitely an interesting one. The production version of the all-new Levorg will be revealed during the latter half of 2020.
Kei cars: small cars with a big impact
Kei cars are and always will be an integral part of the Japanese automotive scene. These kinds of cars are exclusive for the Japanese market, and it suites their country like a glove. They have to be small due to the limited real estate around cities, but they also have to be roomy and practical. These cars are a common sight in Japan and Mitsubishi and Nissan both revealed two new concepts that could pave the way for the future of such vehicles.
First is the IMk concept from Nissan. They dubbed as the 'ultimate urban commuter', but what makes it so special? It looks pretty funky, for starters, with a distinct rose gold finish callled Akagane, along with a sculpted exterior. The IMk's holographic displays adds to the futuristic feel of the car too. No internal combustion engine here as the IMk concept is solely powered by electricity.
As for Mitsubishi's kei car concept, they decided to up the ante with the Super Height K-Wagon concept. Essentially a miniaturized Xpander, this cute concept is part kei car and part van. Thanks to its tall roof, it makes for a roomier cabin. It also has leather seats and other features like touchscreen infotainment and automatic climate control for that added premium touch. It also has intelligent active safety systems that will allow the car to drive (mostly) by itself, and avoid potential accidents.
Electric dreams, future realities
The word 'electrification' seems to be the buzz word of the automotive industry lately. Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi, and Nissan wasted no time showing several examples of their electrified vehicles.
Toyota showed the Ultra-Compact BEV which is a small, two-seater EV built for driving in urban conditions. It is designed to meet the daily mobility needs of customers that make regular, short distance trips. It is estimated to have a range of 100 kilometers, a top speed of about 60 km/h, and has an extremely short turning radius. Since it's smaller than a Smart car, it makes for the ideal vehicle to navigate urban jungles like Tokyo.
But if you want something more substantial, there's the all-new Mirai. Now looking more like a proper sedan, it had a Lexus-like design thanks to its coupe-inspired shape. Like before, it still gets its power from hydrogen-powered fuel cells that are paired to electric motors. It is set to go on sale some time in late 2020.
Then there's Lexus, who celebrated its 30th anniversary at this year's Tokyo Motor Show. Their birthday gift to themselves is the curvaceous LF-30 concept. Meant to show what the Lexus brand has in store for the next decade, the fully-electric concept is unlike anything the company has ever designed.
Meanwhile at Nissan, they have electric crossover that's actually ready for production. It's called the Ariya, and think of it as a Leaf crossover, albeit much bigger. With crossovers being the moneymakers for car manufacturers these days, pairing a electric motors to this sort of vehicle makes absolute sense.
Last but not least is Mitsubishi, surprising showgoers with the Mi-Tech (pronounced My-Tech) concept, an open-top, buggy-inspired hybrid 4x4. More of a design and powertrain study, this particular concept looks the prospect of being powered by a ga-turbine engine that powers four electric motors. This unique setup, according to Mitsubishi makes for a lighter, more compact and more environmentally-friendly powertrain. In addition, the turbine can run on a variety of other fuels like diesel, kerosene, and alcohol. Did we mention it comes with electric 4WD?
Of course, it wouldn't be the Tokyo Motor Show if we didn't see any funky-looking concepts. At the center of it all was Daihatsu who showed four concepts that will make you say kawaii. That's Japanese for cute, by the way.
First is the Waku Waku concept. A cross between a kei car and a crossover, this boxy-looking concept is geared towards the outdoors with its cool yet functional design. It has flexible cargo areas that can easily swallow plenty of luggage, as well as a rear roof that can stow away additional cargo.
A retro-chic concept called the Wai Wai serves as a six-seater van of the future. Echoing the design of the classic Volkswagen Bus, its cute and quirky looks, along with its spacious cabin was surely a sight to behold.
Another concept by the name of Tsumu Tsumu, is Daihatsu's take on a kei truck concept of the future. The flat-nosed truck features unique doors that open wide for easier ingress / egress. It also has a flexible interior with an array of sliding tables, and a front passenger seat that can double as another table.
But perhaps the most high-tech of the bunch is the Ico Ico. This literal box on wheels features autonomous tech, which means it can drive all by itself. It is also equipped with a retractable ramp makes for easier wheelchair access for passengers. Power comes from electric motors which means it does not produce any emissions whatsoever.
But it's not all concepts for Daihatsu. They also showed the 'New Compact SUV'. Despite not having a proper name, the concept looked promising and looks like a junior RAV4. In fact, leaked photos of what could be its Toyota counterpart called the 'Raize' has already surfaced on the web. A more affordable C-HR alternative? Sure looks like it.
It's not just cars that had the limelight. In fact, Isuzu and Fuso showed us what the future of trucking will be like too.
The Isuzu FL IR (Future Logistics Intelligent Relay) is a high-tech, autonomous hauler that comes with an intelligent feature called 'platooning'. What it does is link a fleet of FL IRs together in a convoy, which allow for a safer and more efficient way to transport goods. With self-driving tech becoming more available in cars on the road, Isuzu thinks that this type of technology will also be put to good use in hauling cargo.
Besides the FL IR, Isuzu also released the Elf EV. Essentially the company's take on a zero emissions truck, this is no longer just a concept as Isuzu plans to start production of the electric Elf in Japan some time in 2020. A pair of 40 kWh electric motors provide power to the Elf and it is estimated to have a range of over 100 kilometers, as well as a maximum output of 150 kw (201 PS). Does this mean Isuzu will soon offer electric propulsion on more of their commercial vehicles? We'll find out in the future.
Hydrogen power could also power trucks of the future in the coming years, with Fuso revealing the Vision F-Cell Truck. Aimed at eliminating carbon emissions thanks to hydrogen fuel cell technology, Fuso claims the futuristic-looking truck can cover 300 kilometers before needing a recharge. And while it may have only 183 PS, it could have loads more torque thanks to its fuel cell-electric setup.
A truly open future
What will the future of the automobile like? To be honest, no one is certain about it. But because of that, automakers are sparing no expense to become the next key movers, shakers, and innovators of the industry.
Autonomous driving, electric power, hydrogen power, these are all open possibilities of the future. With what we saw at Tokyo, we could say that the automotive industry will see seismic changes within our lifetimes.