Cleaner, smarter automobiles are the theme for the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show in Japan, although high performance and downright wacky concept vehicles have also been revealed.

Many of the designs on display at the show will never be made commercially available. However, the event provides insight into the importance many car manufacturers place on certain nascent technologies.

With a handful of hybrid gasoline-electric and fuel-cell powered cars already on the market in the Japan and elsewhere, manufacturers sought to promote even more radical reduced-emission designs.

Building on the popularity of the Prius gasoline-electric hybrid, Toyota demonstrated the Fine-X, a fuel-cell car with wheels that can be independently controlled, enabling it to rotate on the spot. The Fine-X also features wing-like doors that open upwards providing access to the front and back seats simultaneously.

An even more unusual parking trick was revealed by Nissan Motor’s Pivo concept car. This vehicles egg-shaped cabin can swivel 360°, allowing the driver to turn backwards into forwards at the flick of a switch. Central to this idea is drive-by-wire technology – controlling the car electronically, rather than mechanically.

“With the Pivo concept, we want to demonstrate the myriad possibilities that drive-by-wire could achieve,” designer Masato Inoue said at a preview event in September.

Researchers from Tokyo’s Keio University also displayed an eight-wheeled electricity-powered sedan capable of a top speed of 370 kilometres (230 miles) per hour and 0-100 kph (60 mph) in 4.2 seconds. The fastest non-racing electric car ever made, it was constructed in cooperation with the Japanese government and several automobile companies.

More here.