/

Hokkaido partners working on electric vehicle for cold weather conditions

by

Kyodo

Eight Hokkaido firms are taking a fresh approach to the region’s notoriously cold weather with the development of an electric vehicle tailored for tough road conditions.

“Our company may be small, but we want to produce things that suit the demand of the locals,” said Hideki Nemoto, president of Will-E Co., one of the firms.

Its partners include the state-backed Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation and seven other small- or medium-size firms based in Hokkaido.

At the Sapporo Motor Show in January, the group showcased a prototype of the electric vehicle with resistance to snow and ice, as well as high heat resistance, and especially engineered for driving on icy winter roads.

Nemoto himself is in charge of the vehicle’s control system, which is the core of a system that detects when the vehicle is spinning out, and automatically switches to four-wheel drive mode.

After the vehicle is back under control, the system switches back to rear-wheel drive mode to save energy.

“As there was no sensor available to detect spinning tires, we have worked to develop technology which can judge the situation by the tires’ rotation frequency and the vehicle’s speed,” said Nemoto.

The state-backed organization and the firms will further improve the vehicle, aiming to put it to practical use.

Nemoto had been involved in designing diesel engines at automaker Isuzu Motors Ltd. He quit the company in 2002 and established Will-E the following year. Nemoto has also led the development and commercialization of a tricycle for the elderly.

Always full of new ideas, Nemoto is now especially interested in the area of welfare. One of his company’s patented products with possible application to welfare is its “omnidirectional wheels.” Nemoto claims the crisscrossing wheels can enable a wheelchair to move sideways.

“We can directly receive reactions of customers who used our products, and that is the best part of manufacturing (by a small company). I want to create as many products that can make people happy as possible,” said Nemoto.