Mobility galore

In Events18 MinutesBy Dave McCoidJanuary 29, 2024

It’s a forward-facing show for the most part, pointing toward what’s coming and what might be feasible, rather than all about the here and now. What used to be the Tokyo Motor Show is today the Japan Mobility Show, for not all things have an engine anymore. This year’s event was as awe-inspiring as ever, with some strong hints as to…

My opening remarks on the Japan Mobility Show 2023 take me back to IAA Hannover in 2022, and one of the more interesting couple of hours of my working life – the breakout sessions with Daimler’s head of all things truck-technical, Andreas Gorbach. He said something we knew, and something else many of us hadn’t really twigged to: That propulsion would not fall into a single ubiquitous, scalable vertical like the ICE (internal combustion engine). Yep, got that; but then in the context of global geography, he said neither would the replacement technology. Stop, wait, what?

It was profound, because what he said was, regional energy pricing (read – regions of the planet) would drive what was in vogue in any one place, inferring if it were cheap to make hydrogen, that’s what would power the heavy fleet in that region, and if it were easier to make electricity, it would get the nod. Holy heck! Things really will never be the same will they? Crystal ball-gazing 40 years hence, Peter’s Isuzu GIGA might be FCE in Tokyo, Paul’s might be BEV in New Zealand, and Mary’s might well combust something pure in the vast tracts of Africa or remote Australia.

Armed with those sage words, it was interesting to see the prevalence of H2 kit at the heavy end of Tokyo’s stands, with both Isuzu and Hino displaying FCEVs. Likewise, battery swap might well make the leap from insightful entrepreneur to mainstream OEM, particularly at the last-mile end of town, with both Isuzu and Fuso demoing their respective answers. That of course makes perfect sense; our thinking must change. You don’t keep a metro going all day by hanging bigger batteries on it, resulting in it being able to deliver a payload equivalent to one toothbrush. You keeping it running productively by swapping out the batteries while ol’ mate whips the next load on it.

The event

Anyway, you all need to experience a Japan Mobility Show at least once in your life. The nature of the beast combined with Japan’s contribution to automobility means they’re a big do. The OEM leaders and global press are all there, the latter doing their own exhibition of ‘who’s got the most techy content-collecting gadget’. Is it cooler to have something the size of a small car hanging off you, or something resembling the head of a pin? I still can’t work that one out.

You think we’re a vehicle-crazed nation? The Japanese would leave us in their dust. After all, these are the people responsible for most of the cars we buy. They flock there in their droves to ogle over everything from what looks like a motorised shopping trolley to the new Mazda RX-7, the latest Toyota Land Cruiser, or an ISUZU 8×4 GIGA FCEV. It’s fun on a new level to be amongst it, and unless you’ve been to one, you really don’t know what a ‘drove’ is. The queue to sit in the seat of the QUON or Fuso Super Great was never less than 50 minutes, yet politely and patiently they stand. Due to a scheduling clash, we weren’t able to attend on the media day, so we got the full force of enthusiasm on the Saturday. Let’s then embrace the moment, and with all our new friends, go on a walk around the stands of interest to us.


Walking in the main entrance and following the path through the show we did, delivered us to the lavish Isuzu Group (joint Isuzu/UD) stand with the theme Innovation for You – Accelerate the Future of Transport. Their four pillars in achieving this are Isuzu’s Environmental Vision 2050, Carbon Neutral (CN) initiatives at the group’s manufacturing plants, a societal renaissance of sorts implicating CN vehicles, and initiatives for CN fuels. Isuzu Group believes economic growth and environmental responsibility are happy bed mates.

The Japanese have a way of doing things that really is theirs and theirs alone. All trucks on all stands came with a glamorous lass who absolutely knew you wanted her to feature in every photo you took. If you attempted to politely wave her away, the look of confusion about her person was almost crippling. She would then hand you a QR code card that revealed the truck’s details.

The two highlights on the stand for me were the ELF EV (N-Series) with EVision battery swap tech, and the big 13L QUON.

The full ELF model change was on the stand, including the ELF EV. This little rooster will be one of those trucks that helps create the tipping point in respect to what is the common tool for last-mile metro urban delivery operation. In 10 years the thought of a new ‘oiler’ for zip-around deliveries will be the stuff of madmen. Power on the 4.9 tonne GVM show unit was 110kW fed off a 60kWh battery. There was no range, but based on those numbers it should be line-ball in the mid-one-hundreds considering a payload of 1.7 tonne. Like eCanter, its global rollout will occur in stages with options aplenty. It’s got Isuzu family design language with those big new – incredibly familiar – headlights. It’s a snazzy looking tool of utility, no doubt well put together as you’d expect, with all the mod-safety-cons.

Also on the stand was another contribution to combating the global driver shortage. The new ELFmio is an even smaller super- lightweight jobbie able to be driven on a Japanese standard licence. We can already drive some of the smaller Ns on our car licence so according to the powers that be, Mio is not on our radar currently.

EVision, now this is cool… Isuzu’s battery swap system released in conjunction with the ELF EV; it’s a clear sign from the OEM that you need to swap and go. Swapping, although potentially expensive at the outset, brings all manner of things into play – off-peak and charge management systems, optimised truck use, etc. We’ll no doubt see all manner of purchase packages around this stuff in the years ahead. Of the two auto battery swaps on demo at the show, EVision was the winner for me with its ‘reach-grab-cradle (charger)- grab-reach-cradle (truck)’ system.

Up the weight scale there was a UD QUON Level 4 autonomous dump truck on display, as well as the 8×4 GIGA Honda Motor Co collaboration FCEV that’s been in the incubator for four working years – since January 2020. Isuzu says H2 is the answer for long haul, high weight, and long operational hours, and the plan is to bring the truck to market sometime in 2027.

And then, there it was, the UD QUON GW 530 with a GH13 engine under the floor. Yes folks, the truck that never was … was there. Volvo might have felt a 13L new variant QUON was a little too threatening to the FM in our parts, but of course Isuzu hath no such reservations. Threaten away! It’s also available in Japan now under Isuzu EXY nomenclature.

Of course the 13L comes courtesy of the collaboration with UD’s previous parent, and that signals the eventual end for the big old 6W-G1 in our GIGA now. It also means the GIGA will be reintroduced to Australia, and that has the potential (as you’ll read in the months ahead) to throw the cat well amongst the ‘who’s the biggest of them all’ standings.

Beside the QUON was Quester, basically a QUON for Third World roads. Can we therefore assume that, based on current rates of network decay here, we should see that big boy in the showrooms sometime around 2025? (Just joking nerds – calm down!)


Hino hit the stands with a clever and well-constructed and thought-out theme – ‘we make the world better by helping people and goods get where they need to go’. In a world besieged by runaway virtue signalling, huge props to Hino for reminding us at the base level why we do what we do.

They had a full radio station live on the scene (‘Pffff, who can’t do that?’) Sadly, I can’t report on what was being said due to curriculum deficiencies at Hauraki Plains College 1979 through 1983.

On the stand were Dutro Z EV last milers with ultra-low floors (400 to 420mm when loaded depending on model) – possible with a designed-for-BEV chassis according to the spiel. There were walk-through and box body variants – walk-through meaning front to back, i.e. cockpit to cargo. Payload ranged from 1000kg to 1050kg depending on the model, and range was 150km from a 50kW motor feeding off a 40kWh lithium-ion battery.

Big gear now, courtesy of the Profia Z FCV prototype, the joint venture with Toyota. It was there in six-wheeler trim with a GVM of 25 tonne. In keeping with all the new lingo coming our way in the next two decades, it runs a Toyota solid polymer FC stack with a high-capacity high-pressure (70 MPa (10,152psi) hydrogen tank and lithium-ion battery. Range is expected to be around 600km.

It was on this stand, beside this truck, I learned that if you bent down and peered under the trucks, there were lots of men wriggling around on their backs with GoPros and things, undertaking intense engineering evaluation. I felt bad for my lack of commitment, but it was incredibly entertaining, especially when you pointed at something with an amazed look on your face.

Like everyone, Hino is knee-deep in helping you make the transition to a cleaner way of living and delivering via products like CUBE-LINX and Next Logistics Japan intended to optimise vehicle use and operation. The latter incorporates efficiencies across multiple stakeholders and shippers. (Hmmm, my prophecies of years past will come to fruition – will they need the middle man?)


Future Together was Fuso’s cut-to- the-chase slogan – that slogan works because we will be, all going well. As you’d expect eCanter, the poster child for BEV last mile operations, was front and centre in its latest Series 2 incarnation (New Zealand Trucking magazine – Dec 22/Jan 23).

Looking ahead, Fuso also had an auto battery swap demo in full swing on the hour every hour, using a setup by Ample in partnership with ENEOS. It was my least favoured of the two on show. It appeared a more cumbersome physical presence (think shed and yard space) and more complicated, with the eCanter lifted up and a couple of gurneys on rails rolling underneath and then doing their bits and pieces. It seemed slower, too. Tapping into some very dubious science as a comparison, it took 7m 31s to film the Fuso, and 2m 30s to film the Isuzu. Now, before the phones start, yes, the Fuso did appear to swap two batteries to the Isuzu’s one but there’s still a lag even if you double the Isuzu’s time. Never fear, by the time such wizardry arrives here it’ll all be bareley recognisable I’d expect.

Also on the stand was the new Super Great, thankfully known to us as Shogun … that name change really was super great, I have to say. For hard-core fans of 1980s trucking down under, we’re talking FV315 Fuso throwback all day long in the looks department. Fuso says it brings black-belt imagery to its big bopper, also present across the wider range, at the same time improving aero. ‘It’s cool’ is all they needed to say.

It’s the first full redesign of Super Great in six years and it sports improved safety via Active Brake Assist 6, Side Guard 2, blind spot, rear view…

There’s an interior revamp with a Super High Roof option – ‘noice’ – and at this point I have to stop the press. Yes, there’s still a myriad of centre guff in the cab – that’ll always be – but there appeared to be colour also, burgundy in fact. Lots of it. If our Shoguns arrive here in black with dolphin grey ambiance only … there’ll be words. But what a slick-looking machine.

Fuso is not having any of this 530hp 13L tomfoolery in the opposition camp, and when it does arrive here, it too will have the 13L in ‘anything you can do, I can do too’ power settings … apparently.

Incidentally, it also won the coolest taillights competition – a private competition I ran myself.

Oh, the future is going to be so interesting.