Toyota COMS Makes A Comeback

Toyota COMSTiny little single-seater electric vehicles are apparently doing pretty well in Japan, as Toyota just announced the second generation of its ultra-small city car, the COMS. The name is an acronym of “Chotto Odekake Machimade Suisui,” or “a little smooth driving around town.”

Long-time Gas2 readers may remember the Toyota COMS as the vehicle used for the Akiba Robot Mobility Porter Service (the one where electric vehicles carry your shopping around for you in Akihabara Electric Town in Tokyo). The older version of the COMS was a little square and clunky, with a box on the back for carrying merchandise. The new version is much sleeker, smooth lines reminiscent of pretty much every other tiny one- or two-seater little electric vehicle either on the market or announced for future production.

It Goes, It Charges, It Goes Again

The COMS has four wheels and a roof, so the driver isn’t required to wear a helmet. It does have a mandatory seatbelt, because safety is important and also the COMS doesn’t actually have any doors (you can get canvas doors, but you have to pay extra for them). It also requires the driver to have an actual driver’s license, as the vehicle’s top speed is 37 mph.

The updated motor has a maximum output of 5kW and up to 250Nm of torque. While the inverter was developed in-house, the 6 lead-acid batteries are from Panasonic, and will carry the vehicle for a good 31 miles before needing a 6-hour recharge. Granted, this is half of what the average American drives in a day, but those of us living in a major metropolitan area would probably do pretty well with a similar short-range vehicle.

There’s also the bit where we look at lower fuel costs.  It takes a total of 5.2kWh to charge the batteries completely; in my state, that means it would cost me a grand total of $0.40 to recharge the COMS. That’s less than two cents per mile.

Don’t Look Now, But The Crash Test Dummies Are Still In One Piece

Where Toyota has gone above and beyond with the COMS is with its safety features, because it actually has them. In Japan, there are no safety regulations for mopeds (the COMS is classified as a moped because of the tiny engine). Toyota has not only successfully crash-tested the COMS (at 20mph into a stationary wall), but it has also tested the batteries for leakage in case of a crash (there isn’t any).

Toyota Auto Body Senior Managing Director Ohashi Hiroshi spoke briefly about the decision to further develop the COMS:

“We looked at data provided last year by the National Police Agency when testing our vehicle. 2/3 of all accidents in Japan occurred at speeds below 20mph. With that in mind, we chose 20mph as our vehicle testing speed. We tested for damage to the vehicle’s battery as well as injury to the driver. We can safely say that head, chest, and lower-limb injuries are not an issue, and neither is battery damage.

“We also wanted to develop an affordable and easy-to-drive car for short-distance driving. At the same time, we wanted to improve our collision safety performance as much as possible. While standard passenger cars are rated for safety at 30mph rather than 20mph, most traveling is done at speeds of 20mph and below. This gave us our baseline for safety performance.”

The COMS is available in Japan only – at least at this point – and comes in couple of different skins. The price ranges from $9,996 to $8368 USD. Look like something you’d ride around in? Let us know in the comments, below.

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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.