Space & Innovation

Cloth Car Makes Debut in Japan

The Rimono is an electric vehicle that uses handlebar steering and an iPad display.

<p>Toshihiko Hayashi<span></span></p>

A Japanese startup company is testing a radical new direction for the ultra-lightweight urban auto market: A smart car made out of cloth.

Well, not entirely. The Rimono is being hawked as a hybrid vehicle that exists somewhere in the heretofore unknown gray area between scooter and electric car. The body of the vehicle is made entirely out of a waterproof material typically used to make tents, awnings and tarps.

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According to a report at Motor1.com, the Rimono is an electric vehicle designed to navigate the busy and crowded streets of Japan's big cities. At 2.2 meters in length -- or about 87 inches -- it's just big enough to carry two adult passengers, or one adult and two kids.

The Rimono is powered by a five-kilowatt, 6.8-horsepower electric engine with a maximum speed of 45 kilometers per hour (28 mph). The lithium-ion battery provides a range of around 50 kilometers (31 miles) on a single charge. The company is planning to make the battery pack portable, so you can keep an extra one onboard for longer trips.

In place of the traditional instrument panel, the Rimono has a single iPad mounted in front of the driver. The vehicle also eschews the pesky tradition of the steering wheel, swapping in scooter-style handlebars instead.

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Designers are essentially test-marketing the concept for now, but if all goes well the company says it can be in full production by next summer.

That's about all there is in the way of details at this point, but if Japan's previous engineering triumphs are any indication, the Rimono has a good chance of catching on. Plus, the Rimono clearly has the requisite intensity of cuteness required in new Japanese consumer items. Double Secret Bonus Trivia: "Rimono" translates roughly as "thing to drive," or so we're told.

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