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OK, now we're really confused. In the US, Toyota has been telling anyone who cares to listen that the future of advanced-powertrain technology is hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, not electric ones. In China, a Toyota joint venture is looking at EVs. Over in Japan? They've just decided to pony up a little more for testing electric-vehicle technology. Maybe something's lost in translation.

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The lucky citizens of Japan are getting it now, and some folks in France will join the fray later this year, but that's about it for public, leaning-trike fun. The car in question is Toyota's three-wheeled i-Road concept electric vehicle. And in addition to being really narrow and quite environmentally friendly, this little EV leans quite a bit when it scoots around curves.

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A visit to Ecoful Town in Toyota City, Japan is misleading; checking out the exhibits on the three-acre parcel in the center of Aichi Prefecture makes one think he's learning what kinds of lives homeowners and citizens might experience in some future city not that different from our own. But Ecoful Town is more than a demonstration of what's possible – it's an overview of what's happening right now with the intention of making the future better, and it's happening all over Toyota City.

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Any discussion of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is sure to lead to a discussion of where the hydrogen is going to come from. Even though Japanese car companies have been making public strides with hydrogen for years now, the situation is no different there.

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Toyota is adding its funky, "active leaning" i-Road electric concept vehicle to its rather utopian people-moving experiment in Toyota City that combines personal and public transportation sources. Announced last year, Toyota's "Ha:mo" (short for "harmonious mobility") urban transportation trial lets people get through town using a combination of shared electric vehicles and other transportation sources. Traffic-routing technology and smartphone communication are all part of the futuristic effort

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Toyota, looking to further boost the "shiny, happy" quotient of the model eco-district it's built in Japan's Toyota City, has installed a charging station specifically to be used for its single-passenger electro-mobility vehicles.

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Pull electricity from a Toyota Prius Plug-in to a McMansion, and the lights may go out within a matter of a couple of hours. For a typical Japanese house, though, you'd be taken care of for the better part of a week.

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Behind the Scenes at Toyota's R&D Center – Click above for high-res image gallery

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2010 Toyota Prius - Click above for high-res image gallery

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According to the Los Angeles Times, a town three hours southwest of Tokyo called Toyota City has gone from being the envy of Japan's economy to the city with the country's highest unemployment rate seemingly overnight. What happened? As its name implies, this town is comprised almost entirely of men and women who work for Toyota, the largest automaker in the world – the very same manufacturer that is facing its first year-long operating loss in company history.

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