To go big on EVs, Japanese car makers think super-small

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As global automakers race to put long-range electric vehicles on highways amid stricter emission laws, Japanese rivals are taking a niche approach and steering towards cheaper, pint-sized runabouts to make costly battery technology more accessible.

At the Tokyo Motor Show that starts on Wednesday (October 23), Nissan, Toyota Motor, and others are due to show prototypes of one- and two-seater electric vehicles (EVs) designed for short distances with limited top speeds.

They are betting such EVs are best-placed for Japan’s narrow streets, cramped parking spaces and rapidly ageing society, and that the vehicles will eventually catch on globally too as the elderly population grows. But the jury is still out on whether these vehicles will work overseas.

The Japanese strategy is in contrast to that of General Motors, Volkswagen and other global players who are focusing on normal-sized passenger vehicles, including SUVs, to compete with the top-selling Tesla Model 3 EV sedan.