Govt eyes slow electric cars for elderly

Courtesy of Environment; Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism ministries

Low-speed electric vehicles called green slow mobility, such as the one pictured, will be used in trial programs.

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government is attempting to build a framework to enable elderly people and others to use low-speed electric vehicles to go shopping, to the hospital and elsewhere.

Using vehicles that do not emit carbon dioxide could also help fight global warming.

Amid growing awareness of the dangers posed by elderly drivers, the program is also being watched as a means of encouraging elderly people to give up their driver’s licenses by ensuring they have a means of everyday transportation.

Trial programs are to be carried out from as early as this autumn through fiscal 2021 at seven sites nationwide. These places are experiencing issues such as aging and depopulation, or struggling to provide tourists with transportation, all of which many communities are expected to face in the future.

The program is receiving about ¥400 million in funding this fiscal year. The trial sites are Iwaki and Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture; Kawachinagano, Osaka Prefecture; Oda, Shimane Prefecture; Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture; Kotohira, Kagawa Prefecture; and Yufu, Oita Prefecture.

The trials will use 10 small electric vehicles called “green slow mobility” with capacities of seven and 10 passengers that travel less than 20 kph.

The vehicles will be lent to municipalities and other entities free of charge. They can be charged using home power outlets, so there is no need to install specialized equipment. The drivers are expected to come from taxi or bus companies, or in some places be volunteers.

In some areas, in addition to set routes to hospitals or other destinations, users can reserve a pickup point by smartphone. Some communities are considering using artificial intelligence to help determine the optimal route in response to multiple bookings.

There are multi-faceted advantages. Municipalities can create an environment-friendly transportation network, whereas taxi and bus companies can obtain new business opportunities in short-distance transport.

The Environment Ministry and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry hope to use the trials to figure out issues such as how to set prices for rides and methods of operating programs, then create a list of important items to help in developing full-scale programs.

In the transport sector, which includes automobiles, the government is aiming for a cut in CO2 emissions of about 30 percent from fiscal 2013 levels by fiscal 2030. To meet the target, electric vehicles are regarded as indispensable.Speech

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