Japan’s population of foreign nationals drops for first time in 48 years

Japan’s population of foreign nationals dropped for the first time in 48 years, led by Brazilians, as the nation’s auto industry cut factory jobs after the global financial crisis.

Registered foreign residents fell 1.4 percent to 2,186,121 as of Dec. 31 2009, according to a Ministry of Justice report released July 6. Japan has a population of about 127 million.

A 14 percent fall in the number of Brazilian residents, many of whom worked in the car industry and are of Japanese descent, was one of the reasons for the overall decline, ministry spokesman Yuji Fukui said.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Foreign Population Drops for First Time in 48 Years

Green Convience Store built in Ehime Prefecture, Japan

Daiwa House Industry Co Ltd announced June 9, 2010, that it has constructed a convenience store equipped with a lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable battery system in Ehime Prefecture, Japan.

The company installed photovoltaic (PV) batteries, Li-ion rechargeable batteries, LED lighting equipment and an energy management system to use solar energy for the lighting equipment and refrigerators in the store. Also, the rechargeable batteries store surplus electricity to equalize the power load.

Read the rest of the story: Daiwa House Industry Builds Green Convenience Store in Japan

The Li-ion rechargeable battery manufactured by Eliiy Power

5 minute EV Charging System announced by JFE Engineering Corp — But will it charge your Leaf?

JFE Engineering Corp disclosed the concept of the “super-rapid charging system,” which is being developed by the company, June 16, 2010, at Smart Grid Exhibition 2010 in Tokyo.

The system can charge the battery of a normal electric passenger vehicle to 50% capacity in three minutes and to 70% capacity in five minutes, which are much faster than the charging speeds of the existing charging systems for electric vehicles (EVs). Therefore, the new system is expected to enhance the convenience of EVs.

Rapid charging systems that have already been commercialized by some companies (up to 500V x 125A) are based on the “CHAdeMO,” a Japanese standard for EV rapid chargers, and are capable of charging an EV to about 80% capacity in 30 minutes.

However, because the new system proposed by JFE Engineering uses 500-600A of current, which is about five times higher than the current of the existing systems, it is not compatible with the CHAdeMO. Therefore, the new system cannot be used with Mitsubishi Motors Corp’s “i-MiEV,” Nissan Motor Co Ltd’s “Leaf” and other electric vehicles that support the CHAdeMO.

Read the rest of the story: JFE Engineering Announces ‘Super-rapid’ EV Charging System

Toyota begins recall of 90,000 Lexus and Crown vechicles in Japan

Toyota on Monday began recalling more than 90,000 luxury Lexus and Crown vehicles in Japan as part of a global recall over defective engines — the latest setback for the automaker beset with quality problems.

On Friday, Toyota Motor Corp. said it would recall a total of 270,000 Lexus and Crown vehicles worldwide to fix flaws in the valve springs, a crucial engine component, that could make the automobile stall while in motion. That includes 138,000 vehicles in the U.S., 91,903 in Japan, 15,000 in Europe, 10,000 in the Middle East, 6,000 in China, 4,000 in Canada, and 8,000 in other regions.

“We apologize for inconveniencing our customers. We hope to fix the problem soon,” Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said in a statement.

Read the rest of the story: Troubled Toyota recalls about 92,000 cars in Japan

Japan Stunned by Rampage at Mazda Factory killing 1 and injuring 10

A disgruntled worker slammed his car into employees at a Mazda factory on Tuesday, killing one and injuring 10, stunning Japan just two years after an autoworker went on a deadly rampage in central Tokyo.

The suspect in Tuesday’s incident, Toshiaki Hikiji, 42, was arrested on attempted murder charges after fleeing in his car from Mazda’s Ujina plant in southwestern Japan, the police said.

Media reports said he was a contract worker let go in April. He bore a grudge against Mazda and went there carrying a knife and intending to kill, they said.

But a Mazda spokesman, Kotaro Minagawa, said Mr. Hikiji had quit in April on his own, citing personal reasons, after working just eight days at the plant.

The rampage revived memories of a 2008 incident in Tokyo involving an angry autoworker, who killed seven when he slammed a truck into a crowd, then stabbed onlookers.

Read the rest of the story: Deadly Assault at Mazda Plant Stuns Japan

Suzuki to make cars in India

Suzuki Motor plans to boost its production capacity for passenger cars in India to 1.45 million vehicles a year in 2012, topping its output in Japan for the first time, a report said Wednesday.

Suzuki’s local unit, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., will invest 2 – 4 billion yen (21 – 43 million dollars) this year to upgrade its two existing factories, increasing its capacity to 1.2 million units from about 1 million at present, the business daily Nikkei reported, citing company president Shinzo Nakanishi.

The move is aimed at maintaining Indian market share of about 50 percent amid growing demand and intensifying competition, it said.

Read the rest of the story: Suzuki to make more cars in India than in Japan

An electric car in Japan has set a new world record

Mira EV

The customized Mira EV travelled at speeds of around 40kph as it drove non-stop around a car racing course in Shimotsuma in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The red and white vehicle, fitted with a special lithium ion battery created by the Japanese company Sanyo, ran for 27.5 hours covering a distance of 1,003km without being recharged.

A total of 17 different people took turns at the wheel of the electric car as it circled repeatedly around the racecourse during the experiment.

Read the rest of the story: Electric car travels record 1,000km on single charge

Japanese company Teijin Ltd has designed an ultra-light concept Electric Vehicle

The Teijin Group unveiled on March 30 a super-lightweight electric concept car made with proprietary materials and technologies including carbon fiber composites, polycarbonate resins and bio-derived polyester. Weighing only 437 kg, less than half that of conventional electric vehicles, the PU_PA EV (as in “pupa electric vehicle,” a reference to metamorphosis) embodies Teijin’s vision of what a vehicle will look like on the market in five to ten years.

The vehicle is being exhibited in the Teijin Mirai Studio, a showroom located in the same building as Teijin’s headquarters in Tokyo that presents the group’s leading-edge materials and technologies.

Capable of 60 km/hour and a cruising range of 100 km, the PU_PA EV offers the functionality and structural integrity of a practical automobile. As a symbolic electric concept car, it is infused with proprietary advanced technologies.

Read more of the press release on the Teijin Group website.

Tokyo’s first electric-powered taxis hit the streets

Tokyo’s first electric-powered taxis hit the streets on Thursday Two ‘Zero-taku’ (Zero-taxis), so called because the electric cars produce no carbon emissions, began picking up fares at JR Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi South exit after an inauguration ceremony. ‘If fully charged, we can drive to Yokohama, operator Hinomaru Limousine Co. boasted. The company’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp. i-MiEV electric cars can travel 160 kilometers on a fully charged battery. Fares start at 710 yen ($7.80) for the first 2 kilometers, similar to most taxis.

Read the rest of the story: Emission-free taxi debuts in Tokyo

Mazda Motor Corp. May be Shopping for New Partners this Holiday Season

Mazda Motor Corp. may be the next carmaker to strike an alliance following plans by Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to team up with overseas manufacturers, investors and analysts say.

The companies are seeking to share costs for developing new models with the latest technology. Mazda may need to do the same as its 40-year-old ties to Ford Motor Co. weaken.

“Carmakers like Mazda with annual sales of about only a million units need to be exploring partnerships to survive,” said Yoshiaki Kawano, an analyst in Tokyo at auto consulting company CSM Worldwide.

As the demand for hybrid, electric and other next-generation cars increases, carmakers find it too expensive to develop the technology alone, Kawano said. That partly explains why Suzuki agreed last week to sell a 19.9 percent stake to Volkswagen. PSA Peugeot Citroen and MMC are discussing deepening a partnership that would include an equity investment.

“The next candidate will probably be Mazda, following Mitsubishi and Suzuki,” said Yoshihiro Okumura at Chiba-gin Asset Management Co.

“At this point in time, no decision on any alliance has been made,” Mazda spokesman Ken Haruki said.

Mazda, which expects to post a full-year loss of ¥26 billion, raised more than $1 billion for product development from a share sale announced in October. Shares dropped 28 percent during the past six months, making its market capitalization almost half that of Mitsubishi Motors and less than a third of Suzuki.

“It’s unthinkable to have any capital-type relationship with a company other than Ford,” Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said Dec. 3 at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Ford reduced its stake in Mazda to 11 percent from 33 percent last year and plans to develop future models without Mazda, Mark Fields, Ford’s president for the Americas, said at the auto show.

“For a lot of designing and engineering, we’re going to be focused on Ford,” Fields said. “Our efforts will be focused on the Ford system as opposed to relying on others such as Mazda.”

Ford, the only major U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy, formed an automatic-transmission joint venture with Mazda in 1969 and acquired a 25 percent stake in 1979. The U.S. carmaker took effective control of Mazda in 1996, raising its stake to 33.4 percent.

“If Ford pulls out completely, Mazda will have to find a new partner,” said Yasuhiro Matsumoto, an analyst at Shinsei Securities Co.

As the pool of prospects dwindles because of other combinations, Toyota Motor Corp. may be the only likely possibility, he said.

Hybrids and electric cars comprise less than 2 percent of the global car market — about 65 million units last year. By 2020, battery-powered vehicles will make up 10 percent of the market, Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn estimated.

Mazda doesn’t own hybrid technology or an electric car. It worked with Ford on models including the Fusion sedan, which is based on the Mazda6.

Mazda has said it plans to introduce its own hybrid car, yet it also is in talks to use Toyota’s system, said Koji Endo, managing director of Advanced Research Japan.

Supplying the system would add volume and cut costs for Toyota, Endo said.

“Even if there were talks of any alliance, I wouldn’t be able to speak about it,” Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada said Monday.

With one major alliance already inked and another being discussed, momentum may push a carmaker to snap up Mazda soon, said Christopher Richter, an analyst at CLSA in Tokyo.

Daimler AG Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said Monday his company may choose a partner early next year to expand the Smart city-car brand and build engines for compact models.

Mazda may appeal to potential partners because of a new flexible vehicle platform it is developing, said Andrew Phillips, an auto analyst at KBC Securities in Tokyo. That technology could be easily adapted at low cost across several different models, beginning with the 2012 lineup, he said.

“The real attraction would be in the vehicle development and production technology,” Phillips said.

The company also touts a high-performance gasoline engine that gets 32 km per liter for its Kiyora concept car. Yet that product can only be relevant for a short time because carmakers are focusing on hybrids and electric cars, Endo said.

In the U.S., Mazda sells the Tribute hybrid, which uses the Ford system. It sold 173 in the first 11 months of 2009. It also developed the Premacy hydrogen-powered hybrid, yet it doesn’t plan to sell it, spokesman Haruki said.

Mazda could buy hybrid systems from Toyota without selling a stake, Endo said. Nissan’s Altima hybrid uses Toyota technology, and those car makers own no stakes in each other.

Still, Toyota has a history of forming equity alliances to forge technology partnerships, owning 5.9 percent of Isuzu Motors Ltd. and 16 percent of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru-brand cars.

“Ford seems to be unwinding its ties with Mazda and that leaves room for other automakers to come in,” Okumura said.