The ultra-compact Toyota i-Road – an electric three-wheeled “personal mobility vehicle” – has begun its first public trials to find out how it shapes up in the cut-and-thrust of real-world urban driving.
Consumer testing in Tokyo is set to run from 24 March through to early June, with 10 of the single-seater vehicles taking to the city streets.
The 20 people involved in the programme range from industry experts through to members of the general public, so that Toyota can gain a wide range of feedback on what i-Road is like to drive, how easy it is to use around town, how it affects people’s decisions about what journeys to make and driver satisfaction.
The vehicles are based on the concept versions shown at last year’s Tokyo motor show, but with adjustments to improve visibility, ease of use and manoeuvrability. Its compact, slim shape and 300kg kerb weight make i-Road as nimble to handle in traffic as a scooter, but with car-like stability thanks to its two-at-the-front-one-at-the-rear wheel configuration and a clever, Toyota-engineered leaning attitude when cornering.
More research into i-Road’s potential as a valuable addition to community-based transport networks is under way in Toyota City, where it has recently been introduced into the experimental Ha:mo low carbon urban transport project. It is also coming to Europe this year with two-seater models set to take part in a vehicle sharing programme that will operate in the French city of Grenoble over the next four years.
By Iain Reid