The Future of JDM in the Electric Vehicle Era

The Future of JDM in the Electric Vehicle Era

As electric motors continue to grow in popularity, many wonder how that will affect the Japanese domestic market, which has, historically, been very healthy. The auto industry, like any other industry, changes and evolves with trends and as consumers demand new and innovative products and services. There is also global pressure with commitments to worldwide climate change targets regarding fossil fuels and CO2 emissions.

The question is whether electrified vehicles will replace traditional JDM models or if some type of fusion product will emerge. Let's have a closer look at what's happening in the Japanese market and how it's being influenced by cars operated with electricity and how this ultimately affects the market for JDM vehicles in the USA.

The Current EV Market in Japan

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Keeping in mind that the automotive industry accounts for 89 percent of Japan's GDP, it's interesting to see how they are embracing the electric market. In Japan, you'll encounter the term, "clean energy vehicle," which is used to describe a variety of automotive products.

  • Battery electric vehicles (BEVs)
  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)
  • Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)
  • Natural gas vehicles (NGVs)
  • Biofuel vehicles (BVs)
  • Solar-powered vehicles (SVs)

Those that are considered zero-emission vehicles are collectively called ZEVs, while the others are called xEVs. Unlike many other parts of the world, Japan has long been suspicious of ZEVs, preferring hybrid vehicles instead. Because of the emphasis on hybrid engines, Japan has some catching up to do when it comes to the current global EV trends. In fact, in 2021, BEVs made up less than 2 percent of the country's car sales. 

What's Changing?

Japan recently committed to a 46 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. For that reason, EV models have started to see growth over the traditional gas-engine-powered JDM vehicles the country is known for. The interest in electric scooters is also gaining traction in Japan as part of the initiative to reduce emissions. 

Japan has also begun offering consumers incentives for purchasing performance EV models, including financial assistance and tax breaks. This may be what it takes to encourage people to choose zero-emission vehicles.

Traditional motor brands including Nissan and Toyota, as well as Suzuki, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Subaru are currently developing and implementing technological advances that allow them to adapt their JDM models to zero-emission vehicles. 

Japan also continues to do business with brands outside their domestic production, including Tesla, one of the top hybrid vehicle manufacturers in the world. Hyundai and Volkswagen are others that are breaking into the hybrid vehicle market with their cars being imported to Japan. 

JDM and Electric Technology Predictions

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While there's still a long way to go for Japan to meet their zero emission goals, using fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and others, some expert predictions could contribute dramatically to the industry growth and consumer demands of EVs in the Japanese market. 

Conversion Designs

For consumers who don't want to give up their beloved JDM models, the option to convert their existing vehicle to electric may occur in the very near future. These electric conversion kits allow drivers to retain their favorite JDM vehicles, while also allowing them to take part in the initiatives that favor electric sports cars. 

In addition, we may see JDM brands rolling out cars that look and drive like legacy models but are actually electric sports cars, meeting the demands of the consumer and helping Japan reach its zero emissions goals. This would involve placing electric engines inside traditional designs, satisfying an extended range of customers. 

Technology Advancements

Technology is always changing and improving in the auto industry and with the rise in EVs, chances are that the brands in the Japanese domestic market will harness that innovation and produce performance cars that are also electric. The focus is on advancements in battery technology and electric operation, without sacrificing speed or a manual transmission, which are both expected from a JDM vehicle.

Cultural Shifts

Car culture is a thing and those who engage in the market tend to love certain aspects of JDM models, making them wary of changes. However, as more citizens of Japan lean into eco-friendly living, a good percentage of them are exhibiting a growing interest in electric technology on the road.

While they don't want to give up performance and style, they are looking for ways to meld it with the growing trend toward EVs. For that reason, as the market grows, the expectation is that the culture will shift to new traditions and events that incorporate historical aspects of the JDM community with new sustainability efforts. 

What Challenges Might Arise?

While the idea of a shift to electric vehicle operation is exciting and offers a wide range of benefits, there are some challenges that Japan could face as the technology evolves and expands. This is something to be expected as advanced battery technologies aim to change the Japanese domestic market. 

Inadequate Infrastructure

One of the biggest barriers is the availability of charging stations. Japan is woefully lacking in functional and efficient ways for EV drivers to charge their batteries. At the same time, the electric grid in the country is not currently set up to accommodate a huge surge in EV numbers. A nationwide upgrade will be needed to make it feasible to expand the EV market. 

Lack of Participation

Because Japan claims mastery of the internal combustion engine, it has dramatically delayed its participation in the electric market. While there is a certain degree of hybrid production of electric sports cars and other models, the zero-emission market is less than robust and has some growing to do in terms of participation, both from stakeholders and consumers. 

Limitations to Battery Technology

While huge strides have been made in advanced battery technology research, there's still a way to go. For example, lithium-ion batteries face issues like battery degradation, lack of energy density and storage, and cost concerns. There's also the risk of batteries overheating, overcharging and limited application to be addressed as technology continues to evolve. 

What This Means for US Drivers Who Want to Import JDM Vehicles

black coupe on road during daytime

Because JDM cars are popular in the United States, it makes sense that the growth of EVs in Japan will also influence the JDM market in America. Below are some of the potential impacts.

More Availability of Used Vehicles with Internal Combustion Engines (ICE)

With the increased shift toward electric cars in Japan, it's expected that a larger number of ICE vehicles will be exported, including to the United States. This could mean a larger supply of many classic JDM models becoming available in the American market. 

An increased supply could lower the price tag of some JDM models, which makes them more accessible for car enthusiasts and JDM collectors in the United States. 

Chances to Enthusiast Interests

JDM cars are very popular among enthusiasts in the United States. However, as interest in EVs gains traction in Japan, the diversity of cars that American enthusiasts may also grow. If Japan begins creating high-performance and unique EV models, it makes sense that they may become the newly coveted cars in the U.S.

If you're part of the JDM community, you know well the nostalgic value of certain models. If Japan increases its production of EVs, nostalgic interest in classic JDM internal combustion engine cars may become more desirable as they become harder to find. 

Regulations and Compliance

Along with EVs come stricter regulations regarding emissions, meaning that classic ICE cars may be banned in Japan or be much more heavily regulated. That could translate to more cars being exported to the United States and may also expedite the process of getting them into the U.S. market. 

The United States also has specific regulations regarding imports, which includes a 25-year rule when it comes to non-compliant vehicles. If these guidelines are changed, the flow and desirability of JDM models could be affected. 

Technology Advancements

If Japan is able to create cutting edge EVs, that could influence the market in the United States, increasing the demand for advanced electric cars. This is especially true if new Japanese models have features that aren't available with American-made vehicles. 

Hybrids could also make up a large part of the JDM market, which may translate to the United States market and an increase in the use of such technology in America. 

Trade and Economic Factors

If trade policies change between Japan and the United States in response to an increase in Japanese-made EVs, changes to the way cars are imported to the U.S. could also be implemented. More favorable policies would naturally encourage more imports, while restrictions to import policies could slow the market in America. 

Fluctuations in exchange rates are regular, but they can impact the affordability of JDM cars in the United States, which has a direct impact on supply and demand. 

Cultural and Social Impacts

Sustainability is a hot topic in many parts of the world and the increasing demand for EVs, especially among younger consumers in the United States, could have a big impact on the shift in the JDM market from ICE vehicles to EVs.

Customization in the Aftermarket

Enthusiasts are still going to want classic JDM cars, which will increase the market for retrofitting these models to make them hybrid or fully electric. Such a niche market could become part of the larger JDM community. 

In Conclusion

There's no doubt that demand for EVs is going to continue rising both in Japan and the United States. With such diversification in the JDM market comes the potential for a larger availability of classic ICE vehicles, with the addition of newer hybrid and electric models. Taking into account regulations, culture and market dynamics, enthusiasts and collectors in the United States may expect a larger variety of Japanese-made options, which further influences what comes off the production lines in Japan. 

While the debate continues and the market changes in response to the demand for more and better electric vehicles, current US drivers/owners of JDM vehicles can rely on JDM West Coast for premium parts with quality service.

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