Japanese Cars aim for Weight Loss

Japanese car makers shed weight

In these days of rising gas prices, car buyers are demanding cars with high levels of fuel economy.  Governments are also putting pressure on car makers to comply to more stringent emissions requirements.  Car makers have been improving the design of combustion engine in the past decade in a desperate effort to improve the car fuel efficiency.  And the Japanese car makers these days are focusing on improving fuel efficiency by shedding weight of the cars.

japanese car nissan leaf

In a world full of increasing fuel prices and tightening emission regulations, it is but natural that the car makers are aiming for weight loss in their new car models to improve the fuel efficiency.  Japanese car makers adopted lighter vehicles to achieve more fuel economy a few years ago, by introducing a new category of car called the minicar.  The minicars have length less than 3.4 meters and width less than 1.48 meters and engine displacement under 660cc.  After success of these minicars in the homeland, Japan is now exporting this concept of minicars to other countries such as India.

Japanese car manufacturers are now planning to make vehicles that are lighter than earlier models in order to provide buyers with cars that are  more fuel efficient.  However, there is one issue with this method of improving fuel economy and that is the reduced safety level when the weight of a car goes down.  It becomes increasingly challenging to keep the car safe as the car becomes lighter.  All car manufacturers know this fact well, but they are doing research to integrate new safety technologies such as stronger and lighter materials to develop light weight cars that still can remain safe.  The use of lighter materials such high-tensile steel, carbon fiber, aluminum that are as strong as traditional materials like steel is the key for making lighter, fuel efficient cars of tomorrow.

Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda all aiming for weight loss in their new models in the pursuit of fuel economy, on a top priority basis.

Honda is taking a pain-staking approach to improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon emissions in its new car models, by reducing weight where every gram counts.  Honda is utilizing is revolutionary safety technology such as incorporating multiple frame rails that are made of relatively thin and lighter materials to keep their new cars lighter.  Honda Life is one of the first vehicles where this advanced technology is used.

Toyota started using ultra high tensile steel for making the bumper bar framework since 10 years ago.  Though there are many difficulties in pressing complex part shapes using this new material, they have recently found a way to overcome the difficulty by adopting a method called hot pressing.  Toyota has been specially focusing on Prius and plans to reduce the weight by one sixth in its next generation.  The new generation of Toyota Prius has B-pillars which are much stronger and lighter – that are formed using hot pressing technique.   Toyota is targeting a 10% weight reduction in its mid-sized vehicles by 2010.

Nissan has set the target of making its entire range of car models at least 15% lighter in the next five years.  The drive in Nissan is to make cars lighter as well as smaller.

Finally, Mazda has set the aim to trim the new vehicles by 100 kg starting from next year.  Mazda also has made shedding weight as the central theme of their new car design methodology.  They intend to improve the average fuel efficiency by 30% in next 5 years, and they plan to achieve it by shedding 100 Kg from each of their new generation vehicle.  A proof of this is the latest generation of Mazda2 that has seen a weight loss of 43 Kg compared to its 2003 model.

In a nutshell, the Japanese car makers are now leading the way for lighter and safer vehicles that can save the earth.  They are focusing on three main areas:  decreasing the overall size of cars, developing more efficient engineering, using lightweight materials.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Toyota Plans Six New Hybrids by 2012

Toyota Motor Co. recently announced its plan to roll out six new hybrid models worldwide by the end of 2012.  The Japanese car manufacturer also has plans to unveil two electric cars in the US.

As per the announcement made by Mr. Takeshi Uchiyamada, Executive vice president of Toyota’s global operations, regarded as the father of the Prius; Toyota plans 4 Toyota hybrid models and 2 new Lexus models.  Some of these will be exclusively hybrid cars like the Prius and there would be some that have a gasoline version.  All the hybrids planned by Toyota will be all new and not any next-generation variant of current hybrid models.

toyota hybrid cars

Toyota will also display an all-electric version of the RAV4 at the Los Angeles Auto Show 2010.  It plans to sell the RAV4 electric car by 2012. Toyota is developing RAV4 in collaboration with Tesla Motors.  Toyota and Tesla had announced their joint venture to produce electric vehicles in May 2010.  Toyota went for this partnership with Tesla to benefit from Tesla’s technology of making batteries with many small lithium-ion battery cells similar to those used in a laptop PCs.

Toyota will introduce a plug-in Prius around 2012.  The company anticipates that the plug-in Prius will ultimately replace the existing hybrid model.  Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt which would go on sale late this year will be the major competitors for the plug-in Prius.  The plug-in Prius is expected to cost around $3,000 to $5,000 higher than the normal gas-electric Prius hybrid.

Why Toyota is planning to roll out more hybrid cars than all-electric ones?  As per Toyota, electric cars are not yet practical as the life of battery is very short.  Only when the technology improves to a point when the car batteries would become more compact and have a longer life, Toyota will integrate the emerging inventions with its vehicles.

These are big milestones for Toyota.  To be able to compete with other car makers like Nissan and Chevrolet, Toyota plans to accelerate its production schedule.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Google unveils Japanese Car Navigation Application

Google launches Google Map Navi for Japan

Google Japan recently unveiled Google Map Navi – a car navigation application for the Japanese market –  that could be used free of charge with Android based smartphones.  The car navigation functionality comes integrated with the GPS functionality of the mobile phone in this application.  Google Japan implemented the car navigation functions by making improvements in the route navigation function of Google Map.

The Google Map Navi has functionality to search for public restrooms, hotels, restaurants and other facilities located on the route, apart from its main function of route navigation.  This car navigation application is very user friendly.  A user can search for the desired destinations and facilities by voice input.  All the user needs to do is to speak the address or the destination into the phone, and the application will start searching for a route connecting the user’s current location to the destination.  A user can search for restaurants located on the route by speaking words such as ‘family restaurant’ and ‘grilled meat’.  Public restrooms,  gas stations and parking areas can be searched in a similar manner.

Google Map Navi system works with conventional maps as well as with aerial photos.  In addition, by double-tapping a location on the mobile screen, one can see a Google Street view picture of the location.  The navigational system also notifies the user of the arrival and displays a picture of the destination using Google Street View when the user is near the destination.

Google already has launched similar Car Navigation applications in the United States and Europe.  This is the first time Google is rolling out its customized version of the car navigation system in an Asian country.   The car navigation application customized for Japan can handle some unique situations in Japan such as unnamed roads and searching for a route that does not include the toll roads.  Google Inc. is planning to implement such features in services being provided in other countries.  Though Google offers traffic information to car drivers through a similar system in the United States, it is not planning to have this feature for the initial release of the application.  Also, though at present the Google Map Navi is mainly designed for car drivers, Google Japan plans to provide a similar service for bicycle riders and pedestrians in the future.

To be able to install Google Map Navi, the mobile phone must be compatible.  If Mobile Google Map and OpenGL can run on the mobile phone, it can run Google Map Navi too.  Apple’s iPhone is not supported for this car navigation application.

Similar car navigation services are offered by other mobile phone companies in Japan; however, Google plans to attract more users by providing more search capabilities.

Technorati Tags: , , ,