Sneak peak at Toyota's i-Road

Up to four i-Road PMVs can be parked in a single standard parking bay…

Yesterday, (19 February 2019) we attended Toyota’s State of the Motoring Industry event at Kyalami. While we got to listen in on everything that Toyota has planned for the future of motoring in South Africa, we also got a sneak peak (and a quick test drive) of Toyota’s personal mobility vehicle (PMV), the i-Road.

The all-electric, three-wheeler has now touched down on African soil for the first time, as part of a personal mobility demonstration at SOMI2019. For now, it is just a prototype and the chances of it being available in South Africa any time soon aren’t likely. It forms part of a partnership in France between Toyota, the local authorities, EDF, Sodetrel and Cité-lib who conducted a three-year trial targeting improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of public transport systems by interconnecting them with electric PMVs.

More about the iRoad

The revised Toyota i-Road measures 2,345m long, 1,455mm high and 870mm wide, and has a 1,695mm wheelbase. This makes it 5mm shorter than the concept, 10mm higher and 20mm wider – dimensions that remain ultra-compact.

This means it can be driven smoothly along roadsides and down narrow alleys. Up to four i-Road can be parked in a single standard parking bay.

The full electric powertrain is unchanged: a lithium-ion battery powers a pair of 1.9kW electric motors mounted in the front wheels. With brisk acceleration and near-silent running, i-Road has a driving range of around 50km (target distance at a fixed 30km/h). A full recharge from a conventional household power supply, takes just three hours.

Toyota’s new, entirely intuitive Active Lean technology is key to i-Road’s higher levels of stability, safety, comfort and enjoyment. Working in conjunction with rear-wheel steering, controlled by a conventional steering wheel, the system has a lean actuator motor and gearing mounted above the front suspension member and linked via a yoke to the left and right front wheels.

An ECU calculates the required angle of lean, based on steering angle, vehicle speed and information from a gyro sensor. The system automatically moves the wheels up and down, in opposite directions, and can apply a lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.

The system also operates when 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 gives a unique driving experience, with all the enjoyment of two-wheeler riding, exceptional manoeuvrability and a minimum turning circle of just three metres, yet with no need for the driver to keep the vehicle stable at low speeds, or when stationary.

The fact the driver doesn’t have to put his or her feet on the road surface at any time allows i-Road to have a safer, weatherproof, closed body construction. Not only does this mean the driver doesn’t have to wear a helmet, there is a more car-like environment inside, with the opportunity to install heating, an audio system and Bluetooth.