In a classic case of sustainability layering that borders on downright slathering, the City of Tsukuba in Japan is set to test-host a new car sharing system using electric vehicles that are powered almost exclusively by solar energy. According to a recent report on the solar electric car sharing plan, the partnership involves the Mazda2 (aka the Demio in Japan) with electric vehicle drive trains from Think, using lithium ion batteries developed by the U.S. company EnerDel, and all based on the ZipCar car sharing model.
The choice of Tsukuba as a test community is no accident, considering its moniker “Science City.” By design and population, the city is an ideal laboratory for giving sustainability concepts a real-world workout.
Tsukuba and Science
Tsukuba is a fairly large city of 200,000 souls, called the “City of Science and Nature.” It was planned as Japan’s foremost research center in 1963, with the additional aim of siphoning overcrowding from nearby Tokyo. The city now provides employment for about 40% of the researchers in Japan, in dozens of research and higher education facilities along with more than 120 private R&D businesses. Many of the city’s parks and other open spaces are connected by a 31-mile pedestrian and cycling path, and the theme of Expo ’85 in Tsukuba was “Humanity, Residence, Environment, and Science and Technology.” With this kind of set-up, solar powered all-electric car sharing would seem to be a big hit, so if it takes in Tsukuba that could be a good indicator of success in other college towns and research centers.
Electric Cars and Solar Energy
If fossil fuels were the only available form of power for electric cars, there would still be some savings in terms of fuel efficiency, and ZipCar is already making forays into all-electric vehicle sharing. The addition of renewable energy, in this case solar power, is icing on the cake. The new Tsukuba partnership involves charging stations at local businesses that will store electricity from solar installations, with conventionally sourced electricity filling in any shortfall. Now, if only the cars were equipped with solar panels, that would really be something.
Image: Tsukuba sign by Cotton00 on flickr.com.