(Photo from Nikkei Tech-On)
I had a chance to talk to Subaru staff at the Eco-Products 2008 Fair in Tokyo. I have been wondering why they are not speeding up the introduction of their plug-in electric car, that has been shown in New York and elsewhere. Here on Treehugger, the R1e or Stella got a good response, but so far, no sales. Then, Japan's Environment Ministry announced that Better Place is coming to Japan, and the Subaru Stella would be part of the project in Yokohama and other cities, hooked up with Better Place's novel mobility concept. Clearly, what Subaru wants, is sustainability: their fancy booth (photos below the fold) here at Tokyo Big Sight not only showcased the cute Stella but also provided ample information about the company's 80/2.0 wind mills.
Award-winning Subaru is one of the smaller companies among Japan's seven auto makers, partly owned by Fuji Heavy Industries. They also make small aircrafts and the wind mills are part of their effort to respond to climate change and Japan's "minus 6 percent" challenge (to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 6%). If you are a Pokemon fan, you may have seen the early 1960s Subaru 360 convertible, a fun car that never made it very big in the US, after Consumer Reports called it unsafe. For the R1e and Stella electric cars, Subaru cites the 360 as an influence. I like that sense of humour, and the reminder that this is a company with small, strong roots. They think the all-electric vehicle could be available to consumers in Japan as early as 2009.
Japan's government has promised a 90 per cent reduction in car tax and purchase tax plus discounted parking and highway fees for these vehicles, and Subaru aims to spread its ground-breaking technology by licensing to other manufacturers.
The big question is - how do you power the electric car? You could easily argue that nuclear fuel or not-so-clean coal plants could do the job, but what these people want is Subaru-branded renewable energy:
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the parent company of Subaru, announced that it has been testing its newly-developed two-megawatt wind generation system since the beginning of 2006. The prototype of the system, called Subaru 80/2.0, is at Hasaki, Kamisu City, Ibaraki Prefecture, facing the Pacific Ocean.
The three-bladed wind turbine has a controllable pitch and is 62 meters in height from the ground to the rotor hub. The rotor, which has a diameter of 80 meters, can generate electricity at a wind velocity as low as three meters per second—a 25% improvement over similar wind turbines. It was manufactured by Hitachi, a development partner.
The large-scale Wind Turbine System Subaru 80/2.0 with an output of 2000kW was displayed on a scale of 1/50. This large wind turbine employs the downwind rotor which "makes good use of the updrafts in the locations with mountains and hills."
Fuji Heavy Industry president and CEO Kyoji Takenaka has pledged to address environmental issues and to become an eco-friendly company, and have achieved outstanding results to date, particularly in waste reduction and energy conservation in the production stage.
In other words, to earn your place as a responsible automobile maker in the future, you will have to think in terms of systems, and ask difficult questions about where the energy is going to come from, to power the products that you want to profit from. Great electric cars are indeed available today. The question is how people and nations will change the infrastructure to power them.
More about Subaru and wind power on Treehugger:
Photos of Subaru R1e Electric Car in New York City
Subaru Joins Electric Car Race with R1e
Better Place Coming To Japan
Wind Helps Power Our Flagging Economy
Wind Power Beats Nuclear & Clean Coal, Other Renewables As US’s Best Energy Option
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp