Toyota i-ROAD the agility of a motorcycle, the comfort of a car
Less than 2 years after Toyota first revealed its i-ROAD concept vehicle, a road-legal, 2-seater version of the company's tricycle-format Personal Mobility Vehicle (PMV) makes its European debut at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.
Personal Mobility Vehicles are a new form of transportation which offers greater flexibility in the urban environment. They are substantially more comfortable, weatherproof, stable and safe than scooters and motorcycles.
Moreover, they not only share zero emission during operation and low running costs of an electric vehicle, but also the compact dimensions similar to a conventional two-wheeler (most notably width) essential to urban manoeuvrability and easy parking.
More user-friendly, weatherproof design
The design of the Toyota i-ROAD has been further refined over that of the concept vehicle to offer improved visibility, weatherproofing, manoeuvrability and user-friendliness.
To the side, the doors are now equipped with manually operated windows, making the i-ROAD completely weatherproof. This gives the new Toyota PMV a considerable advantage over conventional two-wheelers, allowing it to be driven without either a helmet or specialist outer clothing in all weather conditions.
The rear has been redesigned with a reduced overhang, restyled and repositioned combination lamps, and a small rear window for improved visibility when manoeuvring. The new i-ROAD is finished in a choice of five urban-chic body colours.
On-board, in conjunction with the normal accelerator and brake pedals of any city car, a more conventional, fully-round steering wheel design has been adopted to improve user-friendliness and ease of driving.
Active Lean technology and rear-wheel steering
2,345 mm long, 1,455 mm high, 870 mm wide and with a wheelbase of 1,695 mm, the revised Toyota i-ROAD is 5 mm shorter, 10 mm higher and 20 mm wider than the concept vehicle, and still boasts ultra-compact dimensions.
This equips the PMV with the ability to manoeuvre smoothly along roadsides and narrow alleys, and also makes it possible to park four i-ROADs in a single car parking bay.
The full electric powertrain of the Toyota i-ROAD remains unchanged, featuring a lithium-ion battery providing power to a pair of 1.9 kW electric motors mounted within the front wheels. Combining brisk acceleration with near-silent running, the Toyota PMV has a range of some 50 km*, after which it may be fully recharged from a conventional household power outlet in just three hours.
Key to the higher levels of stability, safety, comfort and enjoyment associated with the Toyota i-ROAD driving experience is Toyota's new, entirely intuitive 'Active Lean' technology.
Operating in conjunction with rear-wheel steering via a conventional steering wheel, the Active Lean system features a lean actuator motor and gearing mounted above the front suspension member, linked via a yoke to the left and right front wheels.
An ECU calculates the required lean based on steering angle, gyro-sensor and vehicle speed information. The system automatically moves the wheels up and down in opposite directions and is able to apply a lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.
The system also operates when the i-ROAD is being driven straight ahead on a stepped surface, the lean actuator automatically compensating for changes in the road surface to keep the body level.
Active Lean technology delivers a unique driving experience, with all the enjoyment of two-wheeler riding, exceptional manoeuvrability and a minimum turning circle of just 3.0 metres, yet without the need for the driver to stabilise the vehicle during slow speed manoeuvres, or when stationary.
Because the system obviates the need for the driver to lower his feet to the road surface at any time, the Toyota i-ROAD may be equipped with a safer, weatherproof, closed body construction.
This not only means that the new PMV may be driven without a helmet, but also allows for a more car-like on-board environment, with the potential to benefit from such features as heating, an audio system and Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity.
Three-year real-life test in Grenoble, France
In October 2014, urban transport of the future will become a reality in the French city of Grenoble.
A partnership formed between the City of Grenoble, Grenoble-Alpes Métropole, EDF, Sodetrel, Toyota and Citélib will conduct a 3-year trial targeting an increase in the efficiency and effectiveness of public transport systems (trams, buses, trains) through their interconnectivity with full electric Personal Mobility Vehicles.
This real-life test will allow commuters in Grenoble to drive the first or last few kilometres of their trip in a PMV, whilst using public transport for the majority of their journey. This will not only increase flexibility and time-saving, but also contribute to reduced traffic congestion and improved air quality in city centres.
Connected to Grenoble's public transport IT infrastructure, this trial scheme will complement the city's current car-sharing service by allowing users to pick up a PMV at one location and drop it off at another.
By bringing together their respective competencies, the project partners aim to offer Grenoble an innovative service which will allow a thorough, real-life evaluation of the potential of this new form of mobility.
Toyota's role in this new partnership will be to provide 35 i-ROAD PMVs as part of a total fleet of 70 ultra-compact, all-electric Toyota vehicles. All vehicles may be charged at one of over 100 charging points, spread around 30 new charging stations located close to public transport stops throughout the city.
Participants in this visionary car-sharing scheme will be able to make use of two dedicated smartphone apps. One includes an intelligent route planner designed to help users reach their destination via the most efficient route and transport method, based on real-time traffic congestion information, public transport schedules and the other offers availability of PMVs. Via this app, users will also be able to submit reservations for an available PMV.