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Kowa and tmsuk join forces to create Kobot concept electric vehicles

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November 30, 2011

The three-strong range of Kobot concept electric vehicles at the Tokyo Motor Show

The three-strong range of Kobot concept electric vehicles at the Tokyo Motor Show

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In February of this year, TMSUK - the Japanese robotics company behind service robots such as the telerobotic shopper and the Showa Hanako 2 robotic dental patient - partnered up with pharmaceuticals and electro-optronics company Kowa to develop environmentally friendly electric vehicles for urban transportation. The Kowa-TMSUK joint venture isn't even a year old yet has managed to produce not one, not two, but three eye-catching concept vehicles that have made their world debut at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show.

The concept vehicles on display include the one-seater Kobot ν (Nu) and Kobot β (beta), and the two-seater Kobot II. All are electric vehicles designed to ease the congestion in crowded city centers or for use by tourists in environmentally sensitive sightseeing areas. The company envisions parking lots being provided at the periphery of city centers or tourist spots with the vehicles providing local emission free transport into said city center or tourist area. The vehicles are also aimed at car-sharing schemes that would see the vehicles rented from train stations or tourist spots.

The already compact size of the one-seater vehicles can be further reduced when parking thanks to a telescoping design that sees the vehicles' rear wheel and seat folding into the front of the vehicle with a push of a button on a smartphone application. In their compacted form, the vehicles can also nest together to further reduce the space needed to store them when parked. When some protection from the elements or an extra seat is needed, customers can opt for the (only slightly) larger Kobot II. All three vehicles are extremely agile with tight turning circles and the company says they are easier to learn to drive than a motorcycle.

No word on whether the Kowa-TMSUK joint venture has plans to take the vehicles into production but the backing of the two company partners and the effort and investment that has gone to producing the three concept vehicles inside a year suggests the company is serious about its electric vehicles.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
5 Comments

I'm an enthusiastic supporter of compact and innovative vehicles, but these these childish candy colored scooters are going to be a total turn-off in Western countries. No guy, and I doubt any adult females are going to want to be seen in these kiddie cars.

Sorry, I think they demean a potentially valid category.

yrag
30th November, 2011 @ 09:24 pm PST

I have quite a few reservations about all 3 concepts.

All of them make sub-optimal use of the space they take up on the road. To me they look more of a design statement than the product of some actual automotive design, taking into account the actual (and evolving) needs of a commuter.

The three-wheelers... I wonder if they even drove them to the stage. What about cornering (do they lean?)? Does anybody at that company ride a bike? Practicality seems very dubious as well.

The 4-wheeler lacks practicality as well. Protruding wheels are a no-no. It means you take up space on the road that you don't take advantage of (be it batteries, mechanical parts or passenger/luggage space). Not to mention that the wheels become immediately more susceptible to all sorts of abuse leading to misalignment (bumps by other vehicles / to obstacles).

I could go on to suggest more things, but let's not put them to scrutiny so early in their commercial lives.

Τριαντάφυλλος Καραγιάννης
1st December, 2011 @ 01:49 am PST

@yrag. I am not sure about that.

In a world where PBR tall-boys are fetching $2 US because hipsters find terrible beer ironicly cool and stylish, no one knows what the next big thing will be. The Japanese have been exporting "cool" for years and by the time these things come to market a whole generation of anime cos-play weened kids will decide what the coolest new ride is.

My prediction is that these vehicles do stand a chance. A really smart thing would be to offer personalization profiles that would travel with the user on their smart phone and then be reflected on any fleet vehicle that the user stepped onto.

Alan Belardinelli
1st December, 2011 @ 05:32 am PST

I wish some would not say 'no guy' as if they asked every guy in the USA and none said they would like it.

I am a guy and think it would be cool to drive them; especially the Smart like vehicle. I think they look like they came from a scify movie.

BigGoofyGuy
1st December, 2011 @ 06:23 pm PST

Segways look dorky.

If they remodelled them, or allowed custom remodelling they could get somewhere.

This article says to me, "business idea". Make "cases" for segways, like mobile phone skins.

Segway roman chariot,

Seway tie fighter.....

5wiglets
4th December, 2011 @ 12:57 pm PST
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