In February of this year, TMSUK - the Japanese robotics company behind service robots such as the telerobotic shopper and the Showa Hanako 2 robotic dental patient - partnered up with pharmaceuticals and electro-optronics company Kowa to develop environmentally friendly electric vehicles for urban transportation. The Kowa-TMSUK joint venture isn't even a year old yet has managed to produce not one, not two, but three eye-catching concept vehicles that have made their world debut at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show.

The concept vehicles on display include the one-seater Kobot ν (Nu) and Kobot β (beta), and the two-seater Kobot II. All are electric vehicles designed to ease the congestion in crowded city centers or for use by tourists in environmentally sensitive sightseeing areas. The company envisions parking lots being provided at the periphery of city centers or tourist spots with the vehicles providing local emission free transport into said city center or tourist area. The vehicles are also aimed at car-sharing schemes that would see the vehicles rented from train stations or tourist spots.

The already compact size of the one-seater vehicles can be further reduced when parking thanks to a telescoping design that sees the vehicles' rear wheel and seat folding into the front of the vehicle with a push of a button on a smartphone application. In their compacted form, the vehicles can also nest together to further reduce the space needed to store them when parked. When some protection from the elements or an extra seat is needed, customers can opt for the (only slightly) larger Kobot II. All three vehicles are extremely agile with tight turning circles and the company says they are easier to learn to drive than a motorcycle.

No word on whether the Kowa-TMSUK joint venture has plans to take the vehicles into production but the backing of the two company partners and the effort and investment that has gone to producing the three concept vehicles inside a year suggests the company is serious about its electric vehicles.

View gallery - 52 images