Ping Cars Road Trip 2014

Ping Cars, PingMag’s mobility section, will take part in the 2014 Econo Move eco car race, to be held in Ogatamura, Akita Prefecture on May 5th, 2014.

Launched in 2013 to cover cars and mobility issues that go “ping!”, we have been overwhelmed by the support and loyal following from the independent car industry in Japan. Eco issues, new technologies, old favorites, and especially the small players making big waves in the industry today — these are the issues we get excited about. We’ve all experienced that feeling as a kid when it felt so great to just get on your bike and go. That freedom and creativity is what fuels Ping Cars.

And now we’ve decided to take the plunge and go from simply writing articles to embarking on a road trip to northern Japan, and to race!

PingMagRoadTrip2014_TheThreeWheeler Osamu Kokufu, “Electric Tricycle” (1994-2004) Photo: Seiji Toyonaga

PingMagRoadTrip2014_CQ Left: EV Kart by CQ Publishing. Right: Brushless motor made by Mitsuba

The cars in the tournament use batteries issued under the same conditions and compete against each for the two hours of the race. Our racing “car” will be artist Osamu Kokufu’s artwork, “Electric Tricycle”, fitted with an electric motor courtesy of the EV Kart by CQ Publishing and hand-wound by the PingMag team. Make no mistake, this is one seriously primitive vehicle! Leaving aside little matters of lap time (in our mind’s eye, we take the grand prix… though we need to actually get to the finishing line first, of course!), more than anything we thought by actually attempting to build the car ourselves (first step, the motor!) we and our loyal readers might have more fun.

Tokyo to Akita, 1400km road trip

PingMagRoadTrip2014_Route First we need to decide how to get to Akita…

The distance to the Solar Sports Line race track in Ogatamura, Akita Prefecture, where the race will take place, is approximately 1,400 kilometers (870 miles). Supposing we can average 100km/h, it’s going to take us a full 14 hours to get there. But hey, we’ll do our best to go as slowly as possible, and take in the pleasures of the Japanese countryside as we go. A camera and film crew will come along for the ride too, to put together a kind of twenty-first-century “Oku no Hosomichi” (aka seventeenth-century poet Matsuo Basho’s classic work “The Narrow Road to the Interior”).

Our partners for the trip


Nissan Cedric taxi (LPGas)

If we’re going to take part in an eco race, we can’t go making the trip in any old gas-guzzler! So, we got our hands on an LP Gas-run taxi. Anyone who knows Japan is familiar with the Cedric’s classic, square lines — but look again, and doesn’t it seem kinda racy to you? (…No?)


Roomette (long)

Our other faithful friend is a Roomette trailer caravan, which we told you about in Ping Cars volume 6. A mobile house, a bedroom, a garage during the race — our Roomette will magically transform to suit our needs as we travel across Japan.

Follow us on Tumblr!

In order to make the most out of our road trip, we’ve started a special Ping Cars Tumblr account. Please follow our progress and also check the hashtag #PingCarsRoadTrip2014 to keep up-to-date in real time!

PingMagRoadTrip2014_PingCARStumblrWe took the taxi out for a spin around Tokyo for a few days. Unfortunately there really aren’t so many gas stations offering LPG, you know… We may end up searching for fueling spots much of the time on our trip, but either way, it’s certainly going to be a unique journey!

Ping Cars Tumblr

As well as information on the areas we will be passing, we’d love to hear your ideas for our road trip. Feel free to get in touch on Facebook or by email.

All right, enough yapping. It’s time to rev up the motor and get the road trip started! Please come along for the ride!

Special Thanks: HOXTON STUDIO, Takashi F. Nishida, Yellow Cab Japan, Croco Art Factory, Small Design