As if we needed more evidence that the days of internal combustion are almost over, Japan's second-largest oil company will start selling an electric car later this year. Idemitsu Kosan forecasts an irreversible decline in gasoline usage in the coming years, and is developing the car as a way to keep its 6,400 gas stations across Japan in business.
Founded in 1911, Idemitsu is one of Japan's oldest petroleum refiners. According to the Nikkei, though, the company is "seeing an end to oil" and has partnered with an electric vehicle company, Tajima EV, to make a small, zero-emissions city car.
It'll serve as an NEV (neighborhood electric vehicle), with a 100km (62 mile) range and a top speed of 60 kph (37 mph). It seats four and has a footprint smaller than a kei car. The body is made of a "high-performance" plastic, making use of Idemitsu's petrochemical know-how. The car will sticker at around $9,500, though a recent wave of low-priced compact EVs from China cost half that locally.
Idemitsu plans to sell, service and repair the cars at its gas stations, giving new life to brick-and-mortar sites that may one day no longer supply gasoline. With a dealer network already in place, the joint-venture may already be ahead of other newcomers in the field.
Incidentally, the Tajima in Tajima EV is none other than racing legend Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, holder of the pre-paved Pikes Peak Hill Climb record. After breaking the 10-second barrier in 2011, the final year before the course was fully paved, Tajima switched over to the electric class.
Though he continues to build race cars for himself and others, he's been a proponent of EVs and his company has produced a small city car and a bus-like electric people mover. The joint venture has also brought on board Ken Okuyama, former head of Pininfarina, and designer of the Ferrari Enzo and Maserati Birdcage 75th concept.
The Japanese government announced a goal of having all new cars be electric by the mid-2030s. The yet-unnamed Idemitsu-Tajima EV goes on sale later this year, built in small volumes at Tajima's race shop. If it sells well, the companies will build a dedicated factory to produce the cars.
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