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Japan’s Design And Tech Prowess Remerge At Tokyo, As Trade Woes Worsen Page 2

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2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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On the heels of disaster, a changing role for the automobile. The earthquake and its aftermath this past March introduced new energy worries to the Japanese, and to the world, as gasoline and natural gas shortages persisted for weeks. Meanwhile, the Japanese are losing interest in the personal automobile, leaving congested highways and parking headaches in favor of mass transit—a trend CEO Akio Toyoda hinted at in his address. Enter what might help restore interest in family cars: The automobile as an auxiliary power source.

Simply put, if your power went out, your smart circuits within your home-charging box would allow your plugged-in electric car to feed power back into your home—enough to provide about two days of power to a typical Japanese household (or more than a day to the typical U.S. one).

It’s an idea that several automakers are already at work on, but with the disaster a recent memory here, the CEOs of both Nissan (‘Leaf to home’) and Mitsubishi mentioned it in their Tokyo Motor Show addresses, and even Denso was showcasing the idea on its stand.

And it makes a lot of sense. After the earthquake, 80 percent of Japanese households had their electricity back within three days, while it took gasoline supplies more than three weeks to get back to 70 percent and natural gas even longer.

It also invites the question, if a Leaf, or Volt, or MiEV could give pinch-hit as an emergency, event, or picnic generator, how many more EVs would be sold?

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