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Japan’s Idemitsu to make foray into micro-EV business as it prepares for energy transition

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Japan’s second largest refiner Idemitsu Kosan said Feb. 16 it will formally make a foray into a micro-electric vehicle business in April, when it launches a joint venture with Tajima Motor to introduce the micro EV in 2022, targeting the potential 1 million unit/year market.

The move comes as Idemitsu Kosan President and CEO Shunichi Kito and Tajima Motor Chairman and CEO Nobuhiro Tajima said that the companies are accelerating their efforts toward Japan’s targeted 2050 carbon neutrality.

Under the JV, Idemitsu Tajima EV, the companies will manufacture the micro EV under a new specification introduced in September 2020 by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and start selling it in 2022 at some 6,400 of Idemitsu’s branded service stations across Japan.

Energy transition

Amid changing dynamics of energy and accelerated moves towards energy transition in Japan, Idemitsu said it sees a changing role of its service stations in the future.

“We believe service stations will play a greater role as a regional energy supply base for supplying not just oil products, but also next generation fuels, charging EVs or filling hydrogen,” Kito told an online press conference.

“We see the potential demand of about 1 million units a year,” Kito said of the country’s estimated demand for the new micro EV unit sales.

Idemitsu Tajima EV plans to introduce the four-seater micro EV, which can be charged in eight hours with 100v for a distance of around 120km at less than Yen 1.5 million ($14,252) a unit, Tajima told the online press conference. It has a maximum output of 15kW for a top speed of no more than 60km/h.

2035 target

Japan formulated at the end of December the Green Growth Strategy for 2050 Carbon Neutral with action plans including on automobiles, following the announced carbon neutrality target by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in October.

Under the strategy, Japan targets electric-powered passenger vehicles to account for 100% of new car sales by mid-2030 at the latest.

Asked to comment whether Idemitsu’s move on the micro EV follows the government move for electric-powered vehicles, Kito said: “Of course such a major trend was among factors.

“I believe it is not realistic to see gasoline-fueled cars to disappear completely in the middle of the 2030s,” Kito added.

Idemitsu currently has a combined refining capacity of 945,000 b/d in Japan.

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