Kawasaki shows variable-architecture three wheeler EV concept


November 19, 2013

Kawasaki's J concept on show at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon /

Kawasaki's J concept on show at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon /

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The once clear delineation between the car and motorcycle has become somewhat muddied in recent times with the emergence of an array of narrow tracked vehicle designs sporting two, three and four wheels. Kawasaki threw another fascinating oddity into the ring at the Tokyo Motor Show today with the unveiling of the outlandish, shape-shifting "J" 3-wheel electric vehicle concept.

Looking something like a Tron Lightcycle in Kawasaki Lime Green livery, the J is able to morph between a low-slung riding position (Sport Mode) that allows the rider to carve through corners at speed and a higher stance (Comfort Mode) in which the distance between the front wheels is widened for more relaxed urban cruising. Steering-wise, the J has neither a wheel or handlebars, instead employing two levers that seem akin to those found on zero-turn ride-on lawn mowers.

Details of the all-electric vehicle's drive-train are scant, but Kawasaki says the J concept makes use of its proprietary battery management technology and GIGACELL high-capacity nickel-metal hydride battery.

We would love to throw a leg over one of these beasts, but at this stage there's no indication that the J is likely to move beyond concept stage.

So what's your verdict? Outlandish, outstanding, or a bit of both. Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007. All articles by Noel McKeegan

When will it end: "Oh it's electric? Better make it as stupidly gaudy as possible"


The pantomime season would seem to have started early this year.

With the details being scant it is difficult to tell how it is actually steered, with two options being possible. One would require Ironman wrists and the other many weeks of practice to get over the inherent counter intuitiveness.

Perhaps some fairy will descend and turn it back into a pumpkin, and not a minute too soon.

Mel Tisdale

It's a slick motorized electric wheelchair for wealthy handicapped people who want to go fast.

Hard to tell what part of the tires is in contact with the ground. And that shark fin at the back is very practical :)


I think that is way cool. I agree that is TRON like and it is one of the reasons I like it. It is also cool since one is not bent over all the time but have a choice of positions.


It looks several thousand miles better in 'Sport Mode' configuration than in 'Comfort Mode' - presumably the latter is designed ever so slightly more for PHYSICAL comfort rather than the mental comfort of not having everyone laugh at/pity you...


It still looks stupid with a high CG. Why not go with something more low-slung like a recumbent bicycle?

Ron Olson

That green fin on the back looks really dangerous. If you slid off the back of the saddle.... ooohh... I don't even want to think about it!


Why wont the just release affordable, long range designs to market as this, was supposed to be the reason for electric vehicles to make transport cheaper/better than oil. STOP Pandering to oil corps and get us great electric commuters that WILL make our city life better/cleaner.


I kinda sorta looks cool in a TRON like way but it will never fly. Got to agree with Mel on the steering, a non-starter. The rear fin, someone had to do it... Then there's the Ni Metal Hydride battery? Ever have a NiH battery powered drill? How many charge cycles did it last? Not to mention they are HEAVY!

But hey, I like the idea of pushing the boundaries and thinking out of the box, I give Kawasaki an "E" for effort.


It looks pretty awesome in motorcycle mode, but "senior citizen wheelchair" mode leaves something to be desired.


Cool concept, but I'd probably get blown off that thing. Anyone try a wind-tunnel test with a rider on it?


It would be a good idea to make a recumbent trike like that. The track width adjustable by a lever. Could be a bit complicated steering linkage?

Henry Van Campa

Looks like the bike from Akira.

Evan Webb Stuart

I think it has lots of potential. Skateboarders etc raise their inside arms in a turn, which seems to be the steering premise. Everyone in bikes has been trying to get rid of front forks for decades. The higher riding position would be good for low traction conditions, comfort in low speed traffic, and looking over the top of cars (which is where recumbents suck).



I think that they're trying to pander to the petrolheads, Paul, and it's always futile to try to get sensible results from addicts.


I'd choose this

baby on any moment over this gimmick...

Τριαντάφυλλος Καραγιάννης

To the petrol head haters out there: Where would you be now without it? Good grief do I get tired of uninformed or misinformed people spouting the same old "evil oil corps" stuff.

"Did you know that my uncle knew a guy who invented a carb that would get 150 mpg and the oil companies bought him out and is hiding the design?"

Really! There are so many holes to pick in that story, where do I begin?

Let's just say that we have been running out of oil for 50 years now. As for the nasty things that petrol does to our atmosphere. Hmmm, well temperatures in the 8th through the 10th century were higher than they are now. Somehow the earth continued its cycles and cooled off again and then heated up again and...what's next? My bet would be an unforeseen cooling off period. This will be followed by extreme alarmism. Factually, a cooling off period could hurt us more than a warming period. Since the dang termites in the world give off more Carbon Dioxide than all of mankind let's target those little evil critters.

Let's look at a sane argument first and decide where we can agree. So the Carbon Dioxide levels in our atmosphere soar 110 parts per million over the norm. Let's not make rash decisions that will and have cost billions. Luckily most of those billions have gone into the pockets of those who have pushed this idea.

I distrust any ideas of science where they do not allow the opposing opinion any say. There are a good number of scientists out there who agree with me (actually that should be reversed, I agree with them.), but they cannot get any say in before they are shut down. Chicken Little says, "Don't you realize the consequences if we are right?" Those are also overblown.

Some people allow their imaginations to run away with their sanity in tow.

Our problem is that some scientists don't realize the limits of their own imaginations and we often give them too much credit, considering (and this is not a dig, it is the nature of science) how wrong their theories often are. Then these, well meaning experts input data into a computer model and GIGO happens.

The idea of making sweeping decisions based on scientific models is crazy. The best we can do is assume that we can do better and move towards the ideal that we can foresee and allow new technologies to help carry us there.

That and the ingenious inventors out there who will carry us where we want to go. That said, I like solar energy so I have a great system. Even though the think tanks have made it clear that if we all went solar the heat gain by the panels would increase our temperatures.

I am just saying there is no place for the histrionics in our lives. Our world is crazy enough. On the other hand...I too could be wrong. I suspect we are all wrong. Think of how many wrong answers there are!

Dr. Veritas
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