Photo/IllutrationThe FOMM One semi-amphibious electric vehicle is shown at Tokyo Motor Show 2019 on Oct. 24 at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center in Tokyo’s Koto Ward. (Eisuke Eguchi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

A car that floats on water is expected to go on sale next year in Japan, with the company behind the electric minivehicle hoping it will save lives during floods and other disasters.

The semi-amphibious FOMM One was developed by a start-up launched by an engineer who was shocked to see so many vehicles engulfed by the tsunami triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The compact car, which can also travel on water at a speed of 2 to 3 kph, went on display at Tokyo Motor Show 2019 from Oct. 24 to Nov. 4 at Tokyo Big Sight, in the waterfront district of Ariake.

Kawasaki-based FOMM Corp. was founded in 2013 by Hideo Tsurumaki, who was involved in the development of a motorbike at Suzuki Motor Corp. and the small electric model Coms at Toyota Auto Body Co.

Tsurumaki said he decided to start his own business after seeing motorists in cars swept away by the tsunami or failing to escape due to traffic jams in the 2011 disaster. At the time, he said he wanted to create a car that could float.

The FOMM One, measuring 2.6 meters long and weighing 620 kilograms, can accommodate up to three passengers other than a driver. With a recharge time of 7.5 hours, it can travel up to 166 kilometers under normal road conditions on a single charge. Its maximum speed is 80 kph.

When roads are flooded, FOMM One can travel on water to escape to safety, though it is not designed for prolonged use in water.

The wheels have blades to absorb water and discharge it to the rear, allowing the vehicle to travel on the surface of the water. To secure sufficient space for the legs and feet of motorists, the accelerator is operated with a device on the steering wheel.

The company unveiled the FOMM One in March 2018.

In November that year, the company started accepting orders for the model, priced at 2.2 million yen ($20,200), in Thailand, which is frequently hit by floods. While it began mass-producing the car in March 2019, orders for 1,600 units have come in as of late October, according to FOMM representatives.

FOMM is looking to pitch the minivehicle to Japanese consumers between March and April next year.

With torrential rain and typhoons causing flooding in many parts of Japan in recent months, FOMM has received an increasing number of inquiries from local governments and people who live in coastal areas.

"We've just finished preparations at long last," said Tsurumaki. "During an emergency, the FOMM One can be used to avoid being submerged in water. I hope to see it on streets across Japan."