Japan's car industry has a bit of a problem.

As the cost of motoring rises and cities like Tokyo become ever more crowded, Japan's youth is quickly getting turned off owning cars - even diminutive Kei cars dwarfed by vehicles like the Ford Fiesta.

In a busy world mobility is still important though and increasingly, electric power is seen as the way to go.

All the major Japanese carmakers showed off some form of electric personal transportation at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, but the Kobot City EV (via Engadget) is further proof that transport is changing in Japan.

Unusual looks have never stopped vehicles being popular in Japan so the strange forms of each different Kobot shouldn't pose a problem. Nor should a top speed of only 19 mph, in a city where average traffic speeds are significantly lower. Anyway, 19 mph is enough to scare pedestrians, since sidewalks are the vehicles' natural habitat.

Created as a joint-venture between medical supply company Kowa and robot manufacturer Tmsuk, three Kobots are available - the red v ('nyu'), green β (beta) and a two-person π (pi). Each collapses into a smaller size when parked to save space, all controlled via smartphone. You can watch them in action below:

Kowa Tmsuk openly says the vehicles aren't designed for inter-city commuting, but solely as devices for navigating your nearby area.

Though the concept is unlikely to ever catch on in North America, tiny personal transportation devices like the Kobot could be important for ensuring the future of Japanese carmakers on their home turf.