Red carpet evenings in Hollywood will never be the same again if the KAZ, or something like it, ever makes it into mainstream motoring.
The design was outlined by a team at Japan’s Keio University headed by Professor Hiroshi Shimizu, who wanted to demonstrate the promise that lithium-ion batteries held for the road. Shimizu decided to incorporate the technology in a stretch limousine. He began work in 1996, and when the result made its entrance at the 2001 Geneva Motor Show, the Keio Advanced Zero-emissions vehicle had cost $4 million
The eight-wheeled car had an electric motor in the hub of each of its wheels, individually generating 74bhp of power. The 84 lithium-ion batteries—fed through an “Intelligent Power Module” drive unit—were concealed under the floor, making the interior of the KAZ appropriately spacious.
A single charge gave a 186-mile (299-km) range for the KAZ limo. The vehicle was designed in collaboration with, and built by, Italy’s I.D.E.A. consultancy, an automotive industry favorite for prototypes, and proved its mettle in October 2002 when it achieved a spectacular 193mph (311kph) at an Italian test track.
Although it never reached production, the Keio designers claimed it could be adaptable as a truck or bus. However, considering the enthusiasm celebrities have for the “green” hybrid Toyota Prius, the KAZ electric limousines would still be the hottest thing possible for LA premieres.
“A lithium-ion battery is widely used for mobile phones—we simply used large-sized lithium-ion batteries. When KAZ succeeded in running at 311kph, it was so fast our photographer couldn’t take the picture!”
Professor Hiroshi Shimizu, Kaz Project Director, 2002
Specification: model of the car Idea KAZ
YEAR REVEALED: 2001
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Kanagawa, Japan, and Turin, Italy
HISTORICAL STATUS: prototype
ENGINE: eight electric motors
MAXIMUM POWER: 580bhp equivalent
LAYOUT: electric motors mounted in wheels
BODYWORK: six-door, eight-seater limousine
TOP SPEED: 193mph (311kph)
NUMBER BUILT: one