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NUS and Toyota Tsusho to test micro electric vehicles on campus

20 July 2012

The Toyota Auto Body COMS ready for test bedding

(From left) Engineering Deputy Dean Prof Lim Seh Chun, Head of Electrical & Computer Engineering Prof Chua Kee Chaing, Engineering Dean Prof Chan and Mr Kakihara taking a close look at the 2nd generation Toyota Auto Body COMS showcased at the launch

Toyota Tsusho's micro electric vehicles (EVs), the Auto Body COMS, will be cruising around NUS' Kent Ridge campus and University Town as part of a year-long study on the viability of deploying and expanding personal mobility vehicles for short distance travel in Singapore.

This is the first time that the single-seater Toyota Auto Body COMS (standing for Chotto Odekake Machimade Suisui in Japanese, which means smooth, short rides into town) is being tested outside of Japan. A fleet of 10 such EVs is currently housed at the Temasek Laboratories, NUS.

Formalising the research partnership, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by NUS Faculty of Engineering Dean Professor Chan Eng Soon and Toyota Tsusho Asia Pacific Pte Ltd Executive Vice President of the Singapore Business Unit COO Mr Yasuhiro Kakihara on 19 July.

With this study, researchers will evaluate the performance, cost-effectiveness as well as the environmental impact of the micro EVs in Singapore's context and devise improvement measures. For a start, some 30 NUS staff members will be commuting in the EVs; and a total of 160 NUS staff and students will be involved eventually in the year-long project.

Powered by sealed lead-acid batteries, the second generation micro EVs can travel 35 to 45 kilometres at an electronically limited top speed of 50 km per hour. The EV, which weighs 300 kg, needs eight hours to be fully charged.

"For a city to be sustainable, its infrastructure needs to be smart and flexible, adapting to the people's needs. Micro EVs like the Toyota Auto Body COMS would certainly fit in, not only as a solution to the first or last mile problem but also for essential, speedy transport," said Prof Chan. He added that the NUS campus is an ideal test bed for such vehicles as it is a microcosm of a smart and sustainable city.

Already in use on public roads under the motorcycle category in Japan, the Toyota Auto Body COMS has many applications in Singapore, said Mr Kakihara. For example, it would allow single commuters to park their vehicles on the town fringes and make their way to their final destinations using shared EVs, thus reducing emissions and freeing up precious commercial or educational space currently taken up by car parks.