Toyota takes the i-Road

  • 12-Mar-2013 10:28 EDT

i-Road features tandem seating and rear wheel steering.

After the Renault Twizy and Opel RAK e concept shown at Frankfurt two years ago, and not forgetting the original Volkswagen XL1, Toyota unveiled its concept for an electrically powered personal mobility vehicle (PMV) at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The Toyota i-Road follows a similar format in providing accommodation for up to two people sitting in tandem inside enclosed bodywork.

Toyota has chosen a more technically complex solution, though. Whereas other PMVs seen so far have used four wheels, the i-Road has three, arranged with two wheels at the front and a single wheel at the rear. The rear wheel is not powered but turns to provide the steering for the vehicle, giving a minimum turning circle of 3000 mm (118.1 in). The vehicle measures 2350 mm (92.5 in) long, 1445 mm (56.9 in) tall, with a 1700-mm (66.9-in) wheelbase. I-Road is just 850 mm (33.5 in) wide, approximately the same width as a motorcycle. Toyota claims that four will fit into a single parking bay.

Power comes from a lithium-ion battery, said to give a range of up to 30 mi (48 km) and providing a total recharge in 3 h from a domestic power point. A 2-kW drive motor fitted to each front wheel provides the power. To counter the stability issues associated with three-wheelers, top speed is relatively low, and Toyota has devised a computer controlled Active Lean system for the front suspension, which enables the vehicle to lean like a motorcycle through curves.

Active Lean is controlled by an ECU (electronic control unit). An actuator (electric motor) with gearing system is mounted above the front suspension and linked by a yoke to both front wheels. The ECU gathers data from sensors on steering angle and vehicle speed, while there is also a gyroscope sensor. Data are then used to determine how far to lean the vehicle by applying torque to the yoke, resulting in simultaneously raising one wheel and lowering the other to counter cornering forces. The system will also operate if the vehicle is driven along a stepped surface by using the Active Lean system to keep the vehicle body level with one front wheel on a higher surface than the other.

Immediately before the Geneva Show opened, Toyota signed a Memorandum of Understanding to begin a collaborative electric-vehicle sharing project by the end of 2014, due to run for three years. Project partners are the City of Grenoble in Switzerland, the Grenoble-Alpes Métropole region, car-sharing service operator Cité lib, and Toyota Motor Corp. Toyota will provide up to 70 ultracompact urban electric vehicles including a vehicle developed from the i-Road concept, so it looks destined to enter some form of production.

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