Motorsport.com can reveal that a Formula E car is set to run on Japanese soil for the first time this month, as plans for a future race in the country’s capital city gain momentum.
Demonstration runs in the centre of Tokyo at the end of August will be used to gauge the interest of Japanese manufacturers, public and media alike. The event will be conducted by the Formula E Holdings test team, and will take place over the weekend of 21-23 August.
Japan already has a significant presence in the all-electric championship, with Aguri Suzuki fronting the Team Aguri squad. However, there have been only two appearances by Japanese drivers in the first year of the series - Takuma Sato at the opening Beijing round and Sakon Yamamoto at the season finale in Battersea Park, both with Aguri.
Motorsport.com understands that Yamamoto is likely to be part of the demonstrations in Tokyo.
Formula E is keen to consolidate the Japanese interest in the Championship, which saw healthy figures via the TV Asahi coverage throughout season one. The broadcasting deal with Asahi is a multi-year agreement and the broadcaster released initial viewing figures at a combined 15 million for the opening four races.
Japanese manufacturers looking closely at Formula E
Several Japanese automotive giants are looking closely at Formula E and future programmes: that was the message from Aguri Suzuki when he spoke to Motorsport.com last month.
However, the reality is that the likes of Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, Suzuki or Mazda will affiliate themselves first to an existing team, much in the same way that Citroen has done with Virgin via its DS sub-brand.
More likely is an initial ‘toe-in-water’ exercise via existing and affiliated companies to the major manufacturers. For example, Honda's Acura brand unveiled a next generation Hybrid NSX model at the North American International Motor Show earlier this year. Acura has a long history of motorsport programmes, mainly in American sportscar racing.
Recently, Japan has emerged as a world leader in advanced electrical and solar cell technology. Nissan has patented the Air Battery, which is applied with a cathode layer that includes a current collector and liquid tight/gas permeable member. This new technology aims to apply air battery technologies as a suitable high-power source for vehicles.
Insight: Japan leads the way in electric vehicle incentives
It isn’t a matter of if, but more when Japan will fully embraces Formula E. The country has a proactive history in pioneering EV technology.
Japan was the first in the world to unveil an electric vehicle incentive programme back in 1996. Electric fleet vehicles followed in the following decade before large-scale charging station infrastructure started to appear from 2008 onward.
Japan is the second largest market after the US when it comes to electric vehicles, and since 2009 over 95,000 plug-in electric vehicles have been sold in the country through to September 2014.
The Japanese government has set up a target to complete just over two million charging points by 2020.
As the world knows, Japan loves its motorsport. The domestic Super Formula and GT championships are staples of the industry and enthusiasts.
Like those other devourers of leading edge technology – the Germans showed at the Berlin ePrix in May – the Japanese are all-set to embrace Formula E, starting with the demonstration later this month.