The 9 most exciting electric cars from the 2023 Japan Mobility Show

Toyota/Lexus at the Japan Mobility Show 2023
(Image credit: Toyota/Lexus)

The Japan Mobility Show is the new Tokyo Motor Show in all but name, rebranded to reflect the fact that most manufacturers are moving away from motors (internal combustion ones, anyway) and are themselves reshaping into “mobility providers”, as opposed to just carmakers.

This is perfectly demonstrated by Lexus, a company that, this year, brought with it several completely plausible electric car concepts (including the shapely LF-ZC saloon below) but also a quad-motor moon buggy and its JUU electric wheelchair concept. If that doesn’t span the breadth of "personal mobility" we don’t know what does.

Historically, the Tokyo Motor Show has always proven a slightly madcap affair, with the Japanese marques attempting to outdo one another with the wildest concepts. 

To Western eyes at least, it can all look a little bonkers, but this year's renamed Mobility Show provided a wealth of sensational electric concepts that look set to pave the way for an extremely exciting EV future.

From svelte sports cars, to a brutish electrified Toyota Land Cruiser, here are some of the most exciting electric concepts from this year’s show.

1. Mazda Iconic SP

Mazda Iconic SP concept

(Image credit: Mazda)

Not ones to shy away from an engineering challenge, Mazda revealed its stunning Iconic SP concept sports car, leaving RX-7 fans positively fizzing with excitement and providing an insight into what a hybrid powered by a rotary engine and battery packs could look like.

For those not familiar with Mazda's engineering prowess, it pioneered the Wankel rotary engine that, aside from the funny name, is famous for its eccentric rotary design that converts pressure into rotating motion, rather than driving pistons up and down.

In the Iconic SP, a diminutive twin-rotor rotary engine is essentially a very small and efficient generator that is called upon to charge onboard battery packs. You’ll find a similar one in the recently launched MX-30 R-EV, but it doesn’t look this good.

Weighing just 1,450kg, which is featherweight for an EV, the powertrain is said to deliver 365bhp, while the small rotary engine can run on a number of alternative fuels, including hydrogen. 

2. Nissan Hyper Force

Nissan Hyper Force Concept

(Image credit: Nissan)

Nissan set the bar high at this year's show, unveiling no fewer than four concept vehicles during its run-up and then surprising with a fifth as soon as the doors opened. Some might say the Japanese marque was attempting to rule the column inches, others might suggest it is desperate to show off its future design language.

A handful of SUVs and a rather stunning MPV all looked great, but it was the staggeringly powerful Hyper Force concept that really caught our eye. With a purely hypothetical 1,000kW output from its punchy quad-motor set-up, this aggressive EV potentially points towards an all-electric GT-R.

Anyone who has plugged into Gran Turismo will immediately recognize the name, and the gaming references don’t end there. Polyphony Digital, the makers of Gran Turismo, were once again called upon to design the interior digital displays.

What's more, Nissan says the concept features both VR and AR capabilities, with occupants able to game in virtual reality when stationary, and then put on a 'skeleton visor' when at the local track meet, where they can race IRL against digital ghosts. 

3. Lexus LF-ZC saloon

Lexus LF-ZC

(Image credit: Lexus)

Previewing a production model that is slated to arrive in 2026, the Lexus LF-ZC battery electric saloon was one of the more 'realistic' concepts at the show. The angular design will likely be toned down, but it was one of a handful of concepts to boast next-generation performance (prismatic) battery packs and improved energy efficiencies.

Lexus claims a production version of the saloon will achieve approximately twice the range of today’s high-performing EVs, propelling it into the 600+ mile club, where epic road trips are possible without time-draining stops necessary for charging.

Although bold, the design language still features the classic Lexis spindle grille, while those angular panels and perfectly-creased flanks could be made possible by Lexus’s commitment to the "gigacasting" process, which reduces the number of individual parts required for structural elements of the car and offers more creativity for designers.

4. Daihatsu Osanpo

Daihatsu OSANPO concept

(Image credit: Daihatsu)

While eyes were drawn towards the Vision Copen concept, which packed a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout and a – shock, horror – internal combustion engine, Daihatsu quietly unveiled the cleaner, greener but no meaner Osanpo. 

It packs many of the design features of the original Copen, a legend in many parts of the world thanks to its cutesy styling and teeny proportions. However, the Osanpo, which means to take a walk in Japanese, is an electric battery vehicle that embodies "staying close to a fun life", according to its maker.

It is absolutely tiny, with a wheelbase of just 2,440mm putting it firmly in the Japanese Kei car category. But the raised ride height and open-top driving experience allow this "luxurious vehicle" to help you "slowly enjoy the nature around you in a pleasant breeze, as if taking a walk".

We’re not sure whether that means the top speed is limited to a mere walking pace, or if Daihatsu plans to produce some kind of open-top safari vehicle, but either way, it's adorable.

5. Honda Prelude

Honda Prelude Concept

(Image credit: Honda)

It's been a long time since Honda turned its attention to what might be called 'proper sports cars'. So fans of the Type R badge and the Japanese marque’s general exploits in the world of motorsport are likely jumping at the thought of a rebooted Prelude… even if it is an EV.

Saving it to the very end of his speech at this year's show, Honda Director, President and Representative, Toshihiro Mibe, acknowledged that his customers were expecting sports models in the future and the Prelude concept gives a great indication of what that could look like.

Appearing surprisingly production-ready, the two-door BEV looked like a fantastically modern interpretation of the classic 80s and 90s Prelude. That's about all you can really sink your teeth into for now, as Honda failed to touch on the powertrain or hint at any performance figures.

6. Nissan Hyper Tourer 

Nissan Hyper Tourer Concept

(Image credit: Nissan)

Almost single-handedly making MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) cool again, the Nissan Hyper Tourer looks set to be the most luxurious way to silently waft around the city in the near future. We say "almost single-handedly", purely because Lexus recently launched its ultra-bouji LM model, while Volvo is also poised to drop its stylish EM90 MPV, proving that these boxy numbers are back, baby.

This concept is "geared toward individuals who appreciate the finer things in life and enjoy the company of friends and associates," according to Nissan. As a result, it features luxury overhead lighting and a digital floor that displays imagery of a riverbed and the sky, helping create a relaxing space where "digital and nature are fused". If you say so, Nissan.

Capable of high levels of autonomy, the driver can swivel their seat through 360-degrees to join the conversation in the back, while rear-seat passengers can also use a wearable display to view and operate the navigation and audio on the front-seat centre display.

Perhaps the wildest feature is the vehicle’s ability to monitor the biometric signs of the occupants to check for signs of stress, where the Hyper Tourer will adapt the interior mood lighting and play some chill tunes to relax everyone.

7. Subaru Sport Mobility concept

Subaru Sport Mobility concept

(Image credit: Subaru)

Subaru might not be at the spiky end of the current EV sales boom, but it didn’t fail to impress at the Japan Mobility Show – not least because it offered concepts for both land and sky.

The latter came in the form of the Air Mobility Concept, a shapely eVTOL concept that looked like it was plucked straight from the set of Minority Report, while the latter was a little more down to earth in all respects.

There is scant detail on offer, but we do know it has a centrally-mounted driving position, it is all-wheel-drive and that it is powered by some sort of electric propulsion system. The fact it looks like a futuristic rally car is just an added bonus. 

8. Toyota FT-Se

Toyota FT-Se

(Image credit: Toyota)

This might just go down as one of the most beautiful concept vehicles at the show, with the lightweight two-seater signaling a potentially very shapely and very exciting EV sports car future for the brand. 

Again, Toyota mentions its next-generation 'prismatic' battery packs, which are said to offer equally next-gen levels of performance and range. Naturally, lots of folk were quick to point out the FT-Se features a similar layout and general proportions to the fabled MR-2, but Toyota didn’t run with the comparison.

Instead, it revealed it would feature an all-wheel-drive system that could quickly adapt and send plenty of power to the rear wheels for drivers that like to go sideways. On top of this, many of Toyota’s concepts leaned heavily on the upcoming Arene OS, which is tipped to power many of the brand’s upcoming EVs.

Taking the OS development in-house means Toyota can open it up to outside developers to create functions specifically for the brand, with Arene able to take care of everything, from an AI voice assistant to over-the-air updates that introduce fresh vehicle features. 

Its powers were taken to the extreme in the Lexus (a subsidiary of Toyota) LF-ZL concept, which boasted a feature called ‘Interactive Reality in Motion’, where a sort of augmented reality allows drivers and occupants to merely point at things out of the window to bring up further information from the web. 

9. Toyota Land Cruiser Se

Toyota Land Cruiser Se

(Image credit: Toyota)

Put simply, this is a great indication of what a battery electric Land Cruiser might look like. Pertinent given the brand just announced an all-new Land Cruiser for next year, which features a delightfully retro design and serious off-road technology that is bound to resonate well with customers in key markets, not least North America.

Radically, the electric concept moves away from the rough and tough attitude of Land Cruisers of yore (including the 2024 rerelease) and instead goes straight for Range Rover’s jugular. Sleek exterior styling and a three-row interior are said to meet "the needs of a wider customer base".

We didn’t get a look at the interior, but we would bet good money it is packed with premium touches, while Toyota’s 'prismatic' (there they are again) battery packs could equate to monstrous range.

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Leon Poultney

Leon has been navigating a world where automotive and tech collide for almost 20 years, reporting on everything from in-car entertainment to robotised manufacturing plants. Currently, EVs are the focus of his attentions, but give it a few years and it will be electric vertical take-off and landing craft. Outside of work hours, he can be found tinkering with distinctly analogue motorcycles, because electric motors are no replacement for an old Honda inline four.