Convert Your Truck? Japan Has A Kit For That

The ITOCHU Corporation and the Chiyoda Ward-based automotive research and development company Tokyo R&D Co., Ltd. are teaming up to demonstrate that  electric passenger cars and electric trucks have astounding potential. The joint endeavor is supplying lithium ion and solar power generation systems aimed at trucks, which can be used not only as standard delivery vehicles but also as mobile sales centers and emergency power supplies.

The project was selected by the Japanese Ministry of Environment as a 2011 Technological Development to Counteract Global Warming. ITOCHU has been involved in researching secondary uses for EV batteries since mid-2010, but the partnership with Tokyo R&D gives them a whole new playground. Also in on the fun is Tokyo’s Institute of Applied Sciences, which specializes in studies and research centered on energy technology.

Trucks, Trucks, Everywhere

EV technology aimed specifically at trucks lags behind that for passenger cars, but the joint project aims to change that. There are many reasons to electrify commercial vehicles, including their use as a widespread emergency power network. Such a reason is particularly attractive when considering Japan’s declining population and aging society.

The current stage of the project is using the Isuzu Elf as its base. The converted truck has been equipped with lithium ion batteries with a driving capacity of 48 kWh. The motor’s peak output is 100kW and can travel 62 miles on a single charge. Its solar panels have an output of 0.4kW. The prototype conversion has also been outfitted as a mobile sales center; the cargo-space-turned-shop has a power consumption of approximately 2.5kW.

Supermarkets on Wheels

The supermarket chain Kasumi, which has 140 shops mostly in the northern Kanto region, will be testing the converted Elf. Starting in 2012, the chain will use the mobile sales centers for a 12 month period. The vehicles will be based mainly in forward-looking Tsukuba City, Ibaraki (north of Tokyo).

Depending on Kasumi’s results, Tokyo R&D plans to start selling a low-cost small truck conversion kit to auto shops all over the country.

Would you modify your truck, if you had one? Let us know in the comments below.

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.