From the electric Nissan GT-R to the Hybrid Mazda MX-5 at Japan Mobility Show

At the Japan Mobility Show 2023 in Tokyo, which is the new face of the historic Japanese auto show, the first glimpses of the electric future according to the major Japanese automakers are on display.

Many show cars, most of which are destined to become production models within just a few years, take center stage at the show. Toyota and Nissan, in different ways, lead the way with the number of concept cars (real or digital) they are showcasing.

Toyota and Lexus at Japan Mobility Show

Lexus offers a perspective on the premium and luxury market by integrating choices in architecture, software, and new design made possible by the Toyota modular platform, which will give rise to electric models from 2026 onward.

As for Toyota, there are several noteworthy developments at the Tokyo show. Firstly, there’s the mention of the modular electric architecture for future models of the brand and Lexus. Then, there’s the new operating system called Arene, characterized by constant updates of connected functions and services. Artificial intelligence is also applied to voice command interaction.

Regarding design, Toyota is indicating a direction towards electric vehicles that are on average lighter, lower, and more compact in dimensions. The future modular architecture will be constructed in three customizable elements – front, middle, and rear – with the use of large parts previously made up of many individual pieces assembled.

In terms of products, in addition to the Toyota EPU Concept pickup and Land Cruiser Se Concept, the electric vision includes the sporty FT-Se, representing a future coupe somewhat inspired by the late 1990s, early 2000s MR-2. The FT-Se is electric and introduces a multi-screen human-machine interface on board. The Arene operating system is the core of data processing.

Toyota plans to introduce its first solid-state battery electric vehicles in 2028. However, by 2026, the Performance battery, with liquid electrolyte, will provide a 40% cost reduction and a driving range of up to approximately 800 kilometers. Battery technology will continue to evolve to reduce size, transitioning from the 15 cm high battery used in the bZ4X to the 10 cm high battery for the sporty FT-Se and the maxi-SUV FT-3e.

Nissan GT-R will be electric

Nissan, in anticipation of the Japan Mobility Show, introduced four concept cars and revealed a fifth one: the Hyper Force Concept. This is a highly sporty electric idea and is essentially the first step towards the project of a new electric Nissan GT-R. When will we see it in reality? Probably between 2028 and 2029.

The allusion to the future GT-R is in the driving modes of the concept, GT and R. Nissan collaborated with Polyphony Digital and the creator of the video game Gran Turismo to create the on-board user interface for the Hyper Force Concept.

In terms of technology, the concept is designed with four-wheel drive, multiple motor generators, and a maximum power of up to 1,360 horsepower. The chassis is made of carbon fiber, and the battery is of the solid-state type, a production that Nissan aims to achieve by 2028. There are also Lidar sensors for advanced driver assistance systems, calibrated for the sporty driving envisioned by the concept.

Other electric show car proposals from Nissan include the B-SUV Hyper Urban, the SUV-coupe variant Hyper Punk, the SUV Hyper Adventure, and the minivan Hyper Tourer.

Mazda Iconic SP and the future of MX-5

At the auto show, Mazda presented the model year of the MX-5, slightly tweaked here and there but in an unchanged formula. However, there’s a future to define, even though it extends beyond 2027: how to interpret the MX-5 in the electric era.

Mazda has confirmed that it will continue to develop the spider, and with the Mazda Iconic SP concept, they showcase something fundamentally different from the MX-5 DNA. The style is exhilarating, in a coupe configuration of the show car. However, when examining the technical specifications of the project, you’ll notice a weight of 1,450 kg. It’s an excellent figure, except for the fact that it represents an increase of about 400 kg compared to the current MX-5.

At the core of the Iconic SP concept is an electric setup with a Wankel engine serving as a range extender. Two rotors capable of operating on both gasoline and hydrogen are tasked with producing energy for the battery and powering a 370-horsepower engine. The power-to-weight ratio is that of a highly sporty coupe, at 3.9 kg per horsepower. Is this really the path to electrify the MX-5 by the early 2030s? The concept measures 4.18 meters in length, 1.15 meters in height, with a wheelbase of 2.59 meters.

Honda

In the Honda camp, the most interesting project for a global audience is the Prelude concept. Beyond the show car displayed at the stand, there are no indications about the technical specifications or the market offerings in the future.

Honda Prelude was known, especially in the 1990s, as a sporty coupe, even offered in a Type-R version with a Vtec aspirated engine. This is a different era compared to today. The design is very appealing, with soft lines on an electric architecture about which we currently know nothing.

Another futuristic project, with the intention of taking it to the roads in Japan by 2026, is the Honda Cruise Origin. It is envisioned as an autonomous shuttle service, where Honda collaborates with GM and Cruise. Its application can be imagined in controlled environments, shuttling between two points, perhaps within a corporate campus.

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