Daihatsu's stand at the opening day of the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show featured six mini concept cars focused very much on practicality in an urban environment. Somewhat strangely, the company's concepts stood out because, unlike many other vehicles on the showfloor, none of the cars are electric or electric gasoline hybrid. Daihatsu has instead tried to refine existing technology both in lightweight manufacturing and engine efficiency to improve on fuel economy, but that's not to say the company isn't aiming for a zero-local emissions future - this is only the first step in its road map for powertrains that will culminate in a switch to a fuel cell based system.

The first example is the e:S, a fairly conventionally styled 2-door mini hatchback which weighs 700kg and is powered by three cylinder, 660cc engine that produces 43kW at 7200rpm and 65Nm of torque at 400rpm - so its not designed to tow a caravan - but with its incorporated idle stop system, a special exhaust gas recirculation system and a plastic electronic throttle designed to control the engine and continuously variable transmission to optimum efficiency, the e:S does achieve fuel economy of 30km/l - a 10% improvement over the companies previous efforts.

The next step in Daihatsu's powertrain development plan is a two cylinder turbo gasoline engine which it says will provide slightly more power while jumping another 20% in terms of fuel efficiency.

The 3rd stage will be a fuel cell engine dubbed PMFLFC (which stands for precious metal free liquid-feed fuel cell). This system has been under development since 2007 and, as the name suggests, it aims to eliminate the use of high cost precious metals like platinum. It will run on hydrazine hydrate (a synthetic liquid fuel which is made up of hydrogen and nitrogen) and Daihatsu sees its compact size as suitable to its small car platform.

The next mini vehicles in the Daihatsu concept line-up at Tokyo are based on the existing Tanto range and are set to for a market release this year. Both Tanto Exe models are 4-door, 4 seaters, and both use the same three cylinder powerplant as the e:s, but the custom version gets a turbo thrown in.

The final two concepts we saw today are the most interesting in terms of design - and we thought they were pretty cute. Both take on the "small on the outside, big on the inside" philosophy by using clever design to maximize cargo room room.

The basket is a tiny take on a kind of pick-up truck crossed with a roadster... though both descriptions are a stretch. Measures less than 3.5 meters in length, the basket seats four and has a removable soft canopy at the rear giving passengers the option of an open air ride. The rear seats fold flush with the floor to create the utility space, and the front passenger seat can also be folded for carrying longer items.

Lastly there was the DecaDeca - a true box on wheels that uses some clever modular seating to create a surprisingly large cargo space accessible through both the rear and a sliding side door.

We had the chance for a brief chat with the Deputy General Manager of Daihatsu's Product and Marketing, Yosuke Sakaguchi:

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