January 20, 2011

Japanese Rickshaw Undergoes A Modern Makeover

The rickshaw is undergoing a 21st century makeover. The three-wheeled, three-seat Meguru is a modern take on the venerable Asian commuting vehicle.

Traditional Japanese style and materials are used to bring back the look and feel of the traditional rickshaw. The body is coated in red lacquer, the floor is filled with recycled bamboo, and the retractable "window" has been carefully crafted in the shape of a Japanese fan using Japanese "washi" paper, all made by craftsmen in western Japan.

The company says it is selling the vehicle for around one million yen ($12,180) while assessing a business plan for mass production. The Megaru is devised as part of a project to revitalize small businesses facing economic hardship.

The vehicle whose single lithium-ion battery allows for a maximum speed and range of 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour, although the number of batteries could be increased for a longer ride. the vehicle  is 2.5 meters (8 ft. 2 in) long, 1.2 meters (3 ft. 11 in) wide and 1.6 meters (5 ft. 3 in) tall.

"This is a true environmentally friendly car," said Nobuyuki Ogura, the chief executive officer of Yodogawa Group, which built the vehicle in cooperation with three other small companies in western Japan. "Instead of an air-conditioner, it comes with a pinwheel, and we are also thinking of adding a wind chime because it gives a refreshing sound to cool you down without the need of electricity," he told Reuters.

"It doesn't have a heater, but it's equipped with blankets to keep you warm in the winter." A regular driver's license is required to take the vehicle on the road, but car registration is unnecessary. Even disposing of the car after its usefulness has passed poses no problems. "We've used all-natural materials, so if you ever decide to get rid of the car, simply bury it in the ground," Ogura concludes.


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