Electric cars take on hybrids at Tokyo show

CHIBA, Japan: Futuristic concept cars, plug-in hybrids, zero-emission electric vehicles and even a hydrogen-powered scooter jostled for the limelight as the Tokyo Motor Show kicked off on Wednesday.

From a super-skinny Nissan electric car that leans when going around bends, to a lightweight Toyota sports car and a Daihatsu vehicle with a design based on a basket, Japanese makers showed off their visions of the future.

While hybrids are still a big feature, electric cars are competing for attention at this year’s show as technological breakthroughs in rechargeable batteries bring mass-produced zero emission cars closer to reality.

Foreign makers are almost entirely absent at this year’s show, now dominated by the Japanese makers, which are pinning their hopes on growing interest in fuel-efficient automobiles to rescue them from a brutal industry slump.

Toyota, which has said it aims to launch an electric car by 2012, took the wraps off a new version of its battery-powered electric concept car, the FT-EV II, as well as a Prius plug-in hybrid.

“Toyota is not limiting itself to gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. The era of reinventing the automobile is nearly upon us,” said Akio Toyoda, president of the world’s largest automaker. Toyota also showed off a lightweight concept sports car inspired by an iconic 1980s coupe.The News

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