Solar, Electric, Supercute – the E-KomiBus

Kiryu's New 8-Wheeled MiniBus - the E-KomiBusJapan, with narrow winding streets common in many small towns and even in larger cities, is embracing the idea of small and efficient electric vehicles with a low top speed and fairly limited range. One of the newer additions is in the city of Kiryu, in Gunma Prefecture – a tiny 8-wheeled electric and solar bus.

Gunma Prefecture is more or less the Japanese version of the American Midwest – totally landlocked and full of rice fields (okay, the American Midwest has corn, but still). It has the highest number of cars per capita in Japan, and many of the smaller cities are a little more difficult to travel around on public transportation alone.

Enter Professor Takarada Yasuyuki of the Gunma University Department of Engineering, located in Kiryu City. He’s the leader of a project team composed of university staff and employees of several local companies, and the project is the E-KomiBus.

The E-KomiBus (which, for reasons unknown, bears the nickname “MAYU”) is a totally electric and tiny little bus. It’s only 173” long (shorter than a 2012 Honda Civic), and runs on lithium ion batteries, which have a range of about 25 miles after charging 8 hours. With a top speed of 12mph, it’s ideally suited for driving through the narrow back streets not covered by conventional bus routes.

The university hopes that senior citizens and tourists (the two groups least likely to own driver’s licenses in Gunma) will use the E-KomiBus, which seats 10. “I wanted to build a bus that anyone can easily use with a light heart,” said Professor Takarada.

The bus also sports solar panels lining the roof, which will charge the batteries and increase the range during clear weather. Since Gunma usually has beautiful sunny skies in all months that aren’t part of the hurricane season, the solar panels will undoubtedly be a great asset.

Source | Image: Yomiuri Online.


Charis Michelsen

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.