The Subaru 360 is a little bundle of automotive cuteness that sold 392,000 units in Japan between 1958 and 1970. Despite sporting a tiny 356CC engine, its featherweight 385KG weight meant that it could achieve a just-about-sensible 80 KM / H top speed.
Not necessarily the perfect car for electrification — but that didn’t stop the Saitama Institute of Automotive Technology * from having a go and displaying the finished item at the Tokyo Auto Salon 2012.
“We decided to modify a Subaru 360 that we had at the driving school to draw students’ attention to electric vehicles — an issue that is currently in the public eye.” reported a school spokesperson. Apparently this is their third year of researching EVs.
It only took a month and a half to complete the car, and the budget for parts was just 600,000 Yen. The relatively low cost is likely due in part to the choice of lead acid batteries which give a maximum range of just 50KM, and a top speed of 60KM / H. Not so fast — but then again, with the original design only rated to an (optimistic) 80 KM/H, I don’t know if it would be a smart idea to make it go much faster anyway. Although it is not registered for the road, the school has been able to test it on their own facility.
The school aims to build on the Subaru 360 EV’s success with its next project — modifying a Daihatsu Mira to be a plug-in hybrid.
In other Subaru 360 EV news, it seems that the Saitama Institute of Automotive Technology is not the only group modifying the Subaru 360 these days. In a bizarre coincidence, the Sano Technology High School in Osaka has chosen the same base vehicle for its own electric car project, and has the car on display right now at the Osaka Motor Show (January 20th to 23rd).
I couldn’t find any photos of the completed vehicle (it was only just ready in time — the first test drive being on January 19th), so here are two “making of” shots of the Sano Technology High School team’s electric vehicle.
This high school effort involved 2 donor vehicles and one car for conversion. At 4 months, the time spend was considerably longer than the Saitama Institute’s project, and the Osaka team also used 24 lithium ion batteries instead of those heavier lead acid ones. Power is provided by an electric motor from a forklift, and the end result is a machine that can equal the original’s 80 KM / H top speeｄ.
Are these practical cars? No way
But surely they must be the cutest retro EVs ever? Tell me what you think is the cutest EV in the comments below.
(*Note that some English-language reports incorrectly state that the Saitama Driving School produced the EV on display at the Tokyo Auto Salon. This is not correct and this error can be verified by checking the Japanese-language Saitama Institute of Automotive Technology website. The Saitama Driving School is, as its name suggests, simply a place where you can learn to drive.)