DENSO GOes Electric and Starts the Green Journey

  • 75-Year Anniversary Denso Logo
  • DENSO GO Electric Car

    The DENSO GO Electric Car, circa 1949, was on the road more than 40 years before the first mass-produced electric vehicles hit the roadways in the 1990s.

In 1949, the year DENSO was established, Japan was still recovering from World War II. Gasoline, food and other goods were in short supply. Many manufacturers had to get creative to keep the economy, and cars, moving.

While many auto manufacturers turned to charcoal to power vehicles, DENSO took a different path, developing an electric vehicle known as DENSO GO. 

The electric car used a DC motor instead of the more commonly used AC motor, and speed was controlled with only four gears. Although the chassis and batteries were far too heavy compared with those of current vehicles, many intricate, technical devices were employed. The prototype could cover 122 miles per charge, almost the same as the electric vehicles produced four decades later. With a top speed of 26 miles per hour, DENSO’s electric car was only slightly slower than the widely available coal-powered vehicles.

  • Woman assembles electric automotive components

    50 years later, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc. began to manufacture Inverters for electric and hybrid vehicles.  The core drive component for both electric and hybrid (gas/electric) vehicles, the Inverter converts battery voltage (DC) to 3-phase AC for the motor to produce motion and uses the motor to supply power back to the battery during regeneration.  On April 16, 2019 Electrification Systems production expert Jennifer Walker transfers Inverters in Maryville, Tennessee.

Even more astonishing, the first running test of the vehicle was conducted in less than nine months after project approval. Though the electric car was a technological victory, it represented much more – DENSO Spirit.

According to Takeaki Shirai, who was in charge of the electric car project, “the DENSO electric car was the result of character and underscored the ability to carry out creative, formidable tasks swiftly despite difficult circumstances.”

DENSO manufactured and sold 50 electric cars less than a year after it was established, and 40 years before the first mass-produced electric vehicles hit the roadways in the 1990s.

While the DENSO electric vehicle was only ever designed to be a concept, it provided a stepping stone for DENSO’s wider success, and can even be seen as a building block for many modern EVs. It was also the beginning of what would later be known as our DENSO Spirit and started the company along it’s Green path today.