Third time's a charm for Yamaha, a Japanese motorcycles manufacturer, in Europe's electric bicycle market
According to The Asahi Shimbun, after two miserable failures, Yamaha Motor Co. approached the European power-assisted bicycle market focusing on the rider, not the ride.
Yamaha Motor Co is a Japanese manufacturer of motorcycles, marine products such as boats and outboard motors, and other motorized products.
The company studied the differences between Europeans and Japanese in using the bicycles to produce the drive unit that houses the motor, whose power complements the rider’s pedaling. The device is small, lightweight and can maintain the stylish design of the bicycle frame.
The result has been exports of 53,000 drive units for power-assisted bicycles in 2014, a 16-fold increase from the previous year. The company now aims to export 80,000 in 2015.
“We didn’t imagine sales would increase this much,” said Shoichiro Ikebe, overseas sales manager at Yamaha’s Smart Power Vehicle Business Unit.
Yamaha, the world’s first company to sell a power-assisted bicycle, started work on its latest component for Europe in late 2013.
The market for electric bicycles is expanding in European countries like Germany and Switzerland, where a million or so of the vehicles are sold each year.
While many people in Japan’s graying society use the bicycles for daily chores, such as shopping, Europeans often ride them for steep mountain roads and long-distance touring. The European market is now twice the size of Japan’s.
With the goal of staying “one step ahead” of German rival Robert Bosch GmbH, Yamaha revised its design by closing the distance between the pedal’s axis of rotation and the rear wheel axle shaft to more directly transmit pedaling power.
The drive unit is around 3.5 kilograms, or more than 10 percent, lighter than Yamaha’s previous products.
The unit’s performance and size, which causes no loss in terms of frame design, has garnered attention from leading German and Dutch manufacturers of power-assisted sport bicycles.
A Yamaha subsidiary factory in Mori, Shizuoka Prefecture has been working at full capacity to meet the 2015 target of 80,000.
Yamaha released the world’s first commercial electric bicycle in Japan in 1993, and has since produced more than 3 million drive units.
In the Japanese market, where about 500,000 power-assisted bicycles are sold each year, Yamaha accounts for well over half the share when its drive units sold under other companies’ brands are included.
The company started trying to export bicycles and drive units to Europe in 1996, but it fared poorly and ended up pulling out of the market.
Yamaha tried again in 2012, hoping to cash in on the exploding European market, where bicycles with superior features and designs were selling well even when priced between 300,000 yen and 700,000 yen (US$2,430 and US$5,670).
The company believed it could compete in terms of quality while avoiding being sucked into a price war.
However, all did not go well from the outset.
Although Yamaha improved the component’s design for the Japanese market, the feeling of the power being transmitted and the rechargeable battery’s conspicuous shape did not suit the tastes of European makers. Yamaha’s exports to Europe plateaued at 3,000 to 4,000 units.
“We’re here because we suffered two setbacks,” said Wataru Shimizu, general manager of the marketing division at the Smart Power Vehicle Business Unit. “The target when we began our comeback attempt was 100,000 units. We want Yamaha products to be the first choice for Europe’s top bicycle models.”
According to The Australian Financial Review today, Qantas Airways is poised to inject another ¥2 billion ($21 million) into the loss-making Jetstar Japan joint venture in 2015 as it looks to build a large, low-cost carrier business in Asia.
Qantas and partner Japan Airlines (JAL) agreed in November 2014 on an ¥11 billion cash injection in two tranches for an expansion of Jetstar Japan's domestic and international operations, with the first tranche accounting for ¥7 billion, but at the time it did not reveal when the second tranche would be released.
A Jetstar spokesman said Qantas would make the second tranche of the equity investment in 2015. A JAL spokesman said the timing of the Japanese carrier's release of the second tranche would be decided according to Jetstar Japan's management plan and cash condition.
The JAL spokesman said the Japanese carrier would continue to provide "necessary support" for the budget airline to have a stable business operation.
"Regarding the low-cost carrier business model, we consider it will take several years to take root in Japan," the JAL spokesman said.
Jetstar Japan lost ¥11.1 billion in the last financial year, when it faced delays opening a second base in Osaka, but Qantas said in the first half this year it reported an unknown but lesser loss than the same half the previous year despite a weaker Japanese yen and aggressive competitor pricing.
Jetstar Japan has 20 aircraft and a 60 per cent share of the growing low-cost carrier market in Japan. In the first half, its yields, or returns from fares, rose by 11 per cent. JAL said in the first three quarters of the financial year Jetstar Japan's load factor had averaged 75 per cent. However, that is relatively low for a low-cost carrier reliant on cheap fares. Jetstar in Australia, which is a profitable business, had an average load factor of 82.9 per cent over the same period.
Jetstar Japan, however, is viewed by Jetstar Group chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka as the Asian vehicle with the most long-term growth potential because of the huge size of the Japanese market.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, Honda Motor Co. plans to market next spring a fuel-cell vehicle that can travel up to 750 kilometers, 100 km farther than Toyota Motor Corp.’s Mirai FCV sedan.
Honda said the expanded driving range was the result of more efficient fuel cells and a lighter car body.
The five-seat FCV will be released in March and be priced between 7 million yen ($56,500) and 8 million yen, on a par with the 7.2-million-yen Mirai.
Released in December, Toyota’s four-seat Mirai is the world’s first FCV to be sold commercially. It has a range of 650 km on a full charge.
FCVs have a longer driving range than electric vehicles and are powered by electricity generated through a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the air. As the vehicles emit only water while running, they are also called the “ultimate eco-cars.”
Nissan Motor Co. is also planning to market an FCV in 2017.
Competition among automakers to develop and improve technologies for FCVs is expected to continue.
Australia to join and contribute $930 million for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, says Treasurer Joe Hockey
According to The Australian Financial Review today, Australia will become a founding member of China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, sealing a hard-fought internal victory for Treasurer Joe Hockey and Trade Minister Andrew Robb.
Following objections by the United States and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Australian government has rethought its initial opposition and will now join the bank, contributing $930 million in the process.
This paid-in-capital will be contributed over five years and make Australia the sixth largest shareholder.
The AIIB will have paid-in capital of $US20 billion ($25.2 billion) with total authorised capital of $US100 billion, Mr Hockey said.
Mr Hockey argued the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank will create opportunities for Australian companies to sell more commodities such as iron ore.
"Joining the AIIB presents Australia with great opportunities to work with our neighbours and largest trading partner to drive economic growth and jobs," he said.
"The AIIB will work closely with the private sector, paving the way for Australian businesses to take advantage of the growth in infrastructure in the region."
"The governance of the AIIB will be based on best practice, ensuring that all members will be directly involved in the direction and decision making of the bank in an open and transparent manner," he said.
Mr Hockey will attend the Articles of Agreement signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing on Monday, June 29.
According to The Nikkei Asian Review today, the Australian housing market is riding high. While some of the country's top officials in Australia worry about a bubble, others are hailing the boom.
The median price for detached homes in the January-March quarter stood at AUD 914,056 (USD 719,106) in Sydney, the nation's biggest city, according to Australian real estate marketing and research company Domain Group. The figure was up 16% on the year and 39% higher than three years earlier.
In Melbourne, the second-largest city, the median price was up 6.6% on the year and 22% versus three years earlier.
A stroll down a residential street in Sydney reveals a forest of "for sale" signs on front lawns. Quite a few are marked as sold. Almost all properties put on the market sell within a week. Properties in Sydney reportedly hit a clearance rate of 87% at a recent weekend auction.
Hot and hotter
Andrew Wilson, senior economist at Domain Group, said that a long-standing shortage of living space and the country's low interest rates are behind the boom. The Reserve Bank of Australia has been cutting its cash rate target since December 2011. The central bank recently slashed its policy rate by 25 basis points in February and again in May. The rate is now sitting at a low of 2%. A quarter century ago, it was between 17% and 18%.
The market has been on a roll for more than two years. Wilson said the price rises have accelerated since the beginning of the year. The median price of detached houses in Sydney is forecast to top A$1 million by the end of the year, before leveling off.
For homeowners, higher values are good news. In an apparent ripple effect, sales of yachts and other luxury goods have been increasing.
For the have-nots, however, the dream of owning a home is receding. With Australia's resource boom over, the national wage price index rose 2.3% over the last year, failing to keep pace with house prices.
Until recently, Australian officials took the housing market boom as a sign of healthy growth, owing to a rising population buoyed by new immigrants and other factors. But a turning point seems to have come earlier this month: Treasury Secretary John Fraser warned Sydney and parts of Melbourne are "unequivocally" in a housing bubble. Central bank Gov. Glenn Stevens followed suit, saying: "Yes, I am concerned about Sydney. I think some of what's happening is crazy."
Politicians are more sanguine. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that as a homeowner himself, he wants house prices to be modestly increasing. Treasurer Joe Hockey downplayed the difficulties faced by entry-level buyers, saying, "The starting point for a first homebuyer is to get a good job that pays good money." Readily available credit means such buyers should have no big problems with rising property prices, in his view.
For Australians, real estate is the easiest asset to invest in. Many buyers take advantage of "negative gearing," in which the income from a property is less than the cost of owning and maintaining it. This loss is deductible from taxes, along with mortgage interest and depreciation on furniture. The tax breaks are under attack from the political opposition as a giveaway to the rich.
With its close ties to business, the Liberal-National coalition, led by Abbott, does not want to scrap the rules. In reality, it is difficult for the government to introduce measures that could chill the housing market, given that it is propping up the economy now that the resource boom has ended.
Australia is attractive to foreigners because of its pleasant climate and good educational system. This has brought a flood of cash from China that is keeping the Australian property market afloat. In Hurstville, south of Sydney, people of Chinese origin make up more than half the residents. Housing prices in the area are 10 times higher than they were about 30 years ago. Many older residents are putting their houses on the market, saying this is the best time to sell.
In an effort to ease Australia's dependence on resources and diversify the economy, the central bank looks set to maintain its easy money policy. This liquidity is now sloshing into the student apartment market. With the number of foreign students hitting a record high this year, concern over a lack of housing is growing. Sydney authorities recently raided a three-bedroom house crammed with 58 beds that had been rented to international students and others. Companies from Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. see business opportunities in building large student housing complexes in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and elsewhere.
According to The Nikkei Asian Review, Japanese health care device makers Terumo and Tanita have joined with 12 other Japanese companies to form an information-sharing consortium for workplace wellness programs.
The organization, announced Monday, will provide anonymized data on eight indicators from some 300,000 employees and family members. The information will include not only such physical measures as weight, blood pressure and blood sugar, but also behavioral indicators like daily step counts, smoking rates and checkup frequency. It will be used to draft effective corporate health policies and allow comparisons across companies.
Committees for each of the eight data sets will draw on existing company policies to create and refine wellness programs, including efforts to encourage walking and discourage smoking. The panels will also analyze the information to provide feedback on the effectiveness of corporate programs that grow out of the effort.
Workplace wellness programs help improve productivity and lower medical insurance payouts. Terumo Chairman Koji Nakao, the consortium's administrative leader, expressed his hope of enabling "all of our member companies to share their own programs and implement each other's successful workplace health promotion policies."
Initial members also include ABC Cooking Studio, NTT Docomo, Omron, Kyowa Hakko Kirin, Green House, Dai-ichi Life Insurance, Dai Nippon Printing, Teijin, Nitori Holdings, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, Lixil Group and Renaissance. Companies beyond the original 14 will be allowed to participate.
According to The Nikkei Asian Review, construction of a skyscraper like floating wind turbine, the world's largest-class, is expected to be completed June 22 in Japan's northeastern Fukushima Prefecture.
The government-sponsored project, carried out by some of Japan's best-known companies and university, is touted as a symbol of the rebuilding of Fukushima, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. The turbine will have the largest generating capacity of any offshore windmill in the world.
The port of Onahama in the city of Iwaki, forms a backdrop for the rising white tower and the massive crane used to erect it. The turbine, composed of three 82-meter-long blades and a 190-meter tower, is built to withstand wind speeds up to 300kph.
The Fukushima Wind Offshore Consortium, which is building the turbine and will operate it, includes trading house Marubeni, equipment maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, technology conglomerate Hitachi and the University of Tokyo.
The consortium received a mandate from the Japanese government to conduct studies on offshore wind power generation facilities. In late 2013, the first test turbine was installed off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, 20km, with a generating capacity of 2,000kW.
The consortium is now assembling the second test turbine at Onahama. The second turbine is designed to generate up to 7,000kW of electricity, making it 3.5 times more powerful than the first.
The technical phase of test-operation is almost complete. So far, there have been no technical failures with the first turbine. The test operation of the second turbine will focus on ironing out the kinks to commercialize the technology. "Japan has lagged behind Europe in offshore wind turbine development, but with this success, we will be able to leap to the global forefront in this area," said Takeshi Ishihara, a University of Tokyo professor and consortium member.
The cost of the Fukushima project has been put at 50 billion yen ($401 million).
With many new entrants from developing nations in the global wind power market, price competition in turbines is heating up. To spark new demand, it will be necessary to halve the cost of offshore wind farms. Balancing technology and cost will be key if wind power is to reach its full potential as an alternative energy source.
Australian Prime Minister has pledged $1.2b in new money for roads, dams and relaxed visa requirements for developing Northern Australia.
According to The Australian Financial Review today, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pledged $1.2 billion in new money for roads and dams and relaxed visa requirements for backpackers and tourists as part of a package announced on 18 June 2015 in a bid to unlock the "economic powerhouse" in the north (Australia).
"If the north does well, our country does well," Mr Abbott said in Canberra on Thursday. "Northern Australia can grasp its full potential and become an economic powerhouse within our great country. We will drive down the costs of operating in the north for business, making it a more attractive place to invest and work."
At its heart is a bold ambition to increase the population of the northern parts of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory from 1 million people now to up to 5 million people by 2060.
Under the 20-year-plan, the federal government will allocate $200 million for water storage. There was also a $600 million roads package to improve key transport hubs in the far north.
Other aspects of the plan include a major northern investment forum in Darwin targeted at international investors, $75 million for a cooperative research centre on developing northern Australia, $15.3 million for tropical health projects and $12.4 million for indigenous rangers.
Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss said the Coalition would also attempt to cut red tape to encourage businesses to invest in the north.
There will also be schemes to help attract workers to the regions. Overseas working holiday makers will have their visas extended for one year if they are employed in northern Australia. The three-year multiple entry visa will also be extended to 10 years in a bid to promote tourists, especially from China.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said he looked forward to working with the federal government to develop an aviation strategy to open up northern Australia to fast-growing Asian markets.
Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen said Bejing saw opportunities in Australia's north primarily in agriculture, food processing and infrastructure.
"Indeed our view is your strategy of developing the Northern Territory needs investment," Mr Wang said in a briefing on the new free trade deal with Australia.
"China is the third largest investor globally and there is strong interest in investing in Australia … in the agricultural sector, food processing sector. China is very strong on infrastructure … and this [sector] could also benefit from more open investment," he said.
According to The Australian, mind control is nearly here thanks to a device invented by a former Channel Seven newsreader that lets humans operate an iPhone or iPad without moving a muscle.
Queenslander Peter Ford was the first co-anchor of Sunrise at the Seven Network with Chris Bath back in 1996, and enjoyed a long career at US networks NBC and CNN.
But in his spare time he was a computer programmer and has developed a revolutionary device that lets sufferers of motor neurone disease, locked in syndrome, spinal injuries and other disabling conditions operate computers.
Since 2005, his company, Control Bionics, has developed NeuroSwitch which picks up electrical signals inside a muscle in severely disabled people and uses them to generate text and digitise speech, control emails, internet trafﬁc, games and remote systems, including telepresence robots.
Ford’s NeuroSwitch can work on Apple devices, meaning paralysed people can operate iPads — just by thinking about it. Yesterday he said this was a step on the way to mankind becoming part of the machine world.
“Anything that a human can control with a keyboard and a mouse we can control with our neural systems.
The system, which costs $US17,450 ($22,494) has helped people with severe disabilities in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Britain and Europe.
Apple has perfected software called Switch Control that lets disabled users control an iOS device using a switch, which typically scans items on an iPhone or iPad display one at a time until a user triggers a switch to make a menu selection.
It now seems the two systems, Ford’s NeuroSwitch and Apple’s Switch Control, can be married. The neuroelectric signal generated by an MND sufferer who thinks about moving a body part can be detected and fed to Apple’s Switch Control, which then interprets it as device input.
To operate iPhones and iPads by thinking about moving a muscle, even if it is non-functioning, may look an awful lot like telekinesis — manipulating objects using mind power.
This month Control Bionics released a NeuroSwitch interface for Switch Control on Mac. Next month a similar version is expected for the iPhone and iPad.
There is an interesting article about the cultivation of tuna in Japan was released by The Asahi Shimbun as follows:
The supply of tasty bluefin tuna is dwindling, yet demand is as strong as ever. This is the dilemma facing fishermen at sea who recognize the need to conserve precious tuna resources.
On the other hand, researchers on land are also trying to come up with more efficient fish farming techniques. The business opportunities would appear to be endless.
There are various hurdles to overcome, not least finding a way to manage the reproductive process.
But something happened on the evening of May 16, 2014, that may change the entire picture. What researchers in the Taira-machi district of Nagasaki (in Japan) witnessed was a world-first. Located in that neighborhood is the Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute of the Fisheries Research Agency.
Keiichi Mushiake, 57, who heads the Research Center for Tuna Aquaculture at the Nagasaki site, explained what they saw.
"The entire aquarium turned white because it became cloudy from the milt," he said. "We could not see where the tuna was. It looked like a haze had formed."
The phenomenon occurred in an aquarium measuring 20 meters in diameter and 6 meters deep. The aquarium was built to collect fertilized fish eggs.
About 40 artificially-hatched adult bluefin tuna were placed in the aquarium and some spawned. The experiment succeeded with the fertilizing of the eggs by the milt.
"Two or three male tuna went after a female fish and we saw such tailing activity in various places within the aquarium," Mushiake said. "Each tailing would last for about 30 seconds at most. After the fish settled down for a bit, they would then go after other female. That continued to occur for some time."
The spawning activity continued for about three months until the end of August as the males covered milt on the eggs laid by the female. A total of 50 million fertilized eggs were collected from the two aquariums set up for that purpose.
That was the first spawning by bluefin tuna at a facility on land set up to collect eggs.
The facility was completed in June 2013 with the central government contributing 2.1 billion yen (US$17.4 million) to the project. That investment was made because a fertilized egg collection facility on land holds the key to the aquaculture business.
Ordinarily, in raising bluefin tuna on farms in Japan, fry not yet a year old are raised in aquariums for about three years. However, catch restrictions were placed on fry and young fish from January 2015 to prevent overfishing.
That development led to attention turning toward the possibility of complete fish cultivation.
Artificial hatching involves hatching eggs collected from adult fish in the wild. Complete fish cultivation would mean hatching eggs collected from adult fish that themselves were artificially hatched.
If complete fish cultivation can be achieved, there would no longer be the need to go after fry in the wild.
The first successful complete fish cultivation of bluefin tuna occurred in 2002 by researchers at Kinki University Fisheries Laboratory. However, in order for the project to become an established business venture, a major hurdle had to be overcome: controlling the spawning period.
Fry spend their first winter in open-water tanks. To survive the cold winter in a confined tank, the young fish should be at least 3 kilograms. Fish can grow to that size if spawning occurs in April or May, but the bluefin tuna in the tanks spawned in July and August. That meant the fry were only about 1 kg when winter came along, so many ended up dying.
One way to move up the spawning period is to adjust water temperatures. However, that would require a facility on land.
A major problem with such a land-based facility is the huge expense involved, with no assurance that the investment would be recovered. That makes such a facility the largest problem in the tuna cultivation business.
Eggs of bluefin tuna hatch about 24 hours after fertilization.
After the world's first land-based fertilization, about 3 million fertilized eggs were sent to the Amami laboratory of the Fisheries Research Agency on Kakeromajima island in Kagoshima Prefecture and the Nagasaki prefectural government's fisheries testing facility.
It took nine hours to transport the eggs to the Kakeromajima facility, over land, air and sea.
On the receiving end of the delivery was Satoshi Shiozawa, 57, who heads a research group there looking into breeding and multiplying.
"The hatching began as soon as the eggs arrived," he said. "Although bluefin tuna can grow to up to 400 kg, the eggs are only 1 milligram. Feed has to be given two days after hatching. Only 1 percent of the hatched fish reach 5 to 6 centimeters in size."
After raising fry to such size over 30 to 40 days, the fish are placed in open-water tanks. Only one-tenth of those fry grow to 500 grams in about two months. Of that fish, only half further grow to a size at which they can be sold to the market. In other words, only 0.05 percent of the hatched fish ever become big enough for market.
There are any number of ways for the hatched fish to die. Some sink, while others float to the surface but still die. Some die after being eaten by other fry. Even if the fish grow somewhat bigger, they die in a collision caused when something surprises it.
All such hurdles have to be overcome for the fish to become large enough for the market.
Meanwhile, major companies are holding out expectations that the complete fish cultivation cycle will succeed through fertilized egg collection on land.
Maruha Nichiro Corp. resumed research on complete fish cultivation in fiscal 2006 after suspending it temporarily. The company began selling the first batch of tuna raised through complete fish cultivation on June 5.
Akira Ito heads the company's aquaculture operations department.
"The three areas we want to improve on are the survival rate, feed and the type of tuna to raise," he said.
The last issue involves breeding tuna that is the most suited to complete cultivation and that will grow the fastest while maintaining a high survival rate.
Maruha Nichiro is one of the participants in a project on genetic research.
Mitsuru Ototake, 55, heads the Research Center for Aquatic Genomics at the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science, which is located in Yokohama's Kanazawa Ward.
"If we take a sampling of fry soon after birth and check its genetic makeup, we find out, for example, that the fish were spawned by four females," Ototake explained. "When we conduct a further study of the surviving fish 18 days later, we can find out which parent gave birth to the most fry that survived."
The ultimate goal is to determine the DNA sequencing for the fish with the highest survival rate, the fastest growth and the most durability against disease. By cross-breeding tuna with such genetic makeup, it might be possible to produce the "perfect" one for fish cultivation.
Research has already succeeded in freezing milt for preservation. The problem was collecting the eggs. A land-based facility is indispensable for collecting eggs from specific tuna. That is why such high hopes are being placed on the Nagasaki facility.
"The exit for our research will be in understanding what tuna to keep as a candidate for cross-breeding," Ototake said.
Subscribe to our English Newsletter