The Toyota i-Road: A Car and Motorbike In One
The Toyota i-Road is an electric vehicle combining the best aspects of cars and motorbikes into one futuristic (and fun) model.
The idea of the vehicle was developed by combining the convenience of a motorbikes compact size, and the safety and stability of a car.
The small size makes it easy to zip around cities and to park in confined spaces, at just 870mm wide and weighing a mere 300 kg.
However unlike a motorbike, there is no fear of getting wet in the rain or being easily injured, thanks to the enclosed comfort and body construction similar to a car.
This electric vehicle has zero C02 emissions, making is extremely environmentally friendly. It is powered by lithium-ion batteries that can withstand about 50km of travel on the one charge, based on a speed of 30km per hour.
The driving experience is unique as drivers have the enjoyment of two-wheeler riding, a small turning circle and high maneuverability, but there is no need to keep the vehicle stable when travelling at low speeds or at a stop.
Toyota i-Road’s Active Lean technology
The innovative Active Lean technology incorporated into the Toyota i-Road gives drivers quite an exciting experience.
According to Toyota, drivers can enjoy “the refreshing sense of being one with the machine,”, as when cornering the vehicle leans into the turn like a motorbike.
Rather than steering with the front wheels, at low speeds the back tires turn to direct the vehicle, and it automatically selects an optimal lean angle (this is called auto-lean).
The Project General Manager of the Product Planning Department, Akihiro Yanaka said the Active Lean Technology inspiration was born from his love of skiing.
“I thought about the basics of making things move and function properly. Then I realised the importance of maintaining an optimum relationship between the centre of gravity and the tyre/road contact points,” Mr Yanaka said.
“The driver and the vehicle have to move in synchronisation, so when I thought about the most natural way to experience this, I came up with skiing. I actually do find many hints from skiing.”
To demonstrate how the vehicle is similar to skiing the company made a video, which can be viewed here.
Active Lean works in conjunction with a rear steering wheel and is controlled with a traditional steering wheel.
A lean actuator motor and gearing is on top of the front suspension member and connected to both front wheels.
The required lean angle is calculated on a basis on the steering angle, as well as vehicle speed and other information pulled from a gyro sensor.
Japan introduces i-Road sharing systems
In April this year Toyota introduced an electric vehicle sharing service trial in Tokyo, Japan.
This urbanised transport system using the Toyota i-Road is ecological, unique and allows residents to have some three-wheeled fun.
The system is likely to attract consumers who are environmentally friendly and wish to reduce their carbon footprints by car sharing, as well as people who wish to test out this prototype vehicle.
This futuristic transportation network efficiently links various forms of mobility and enables a new type of transport that has little environmental impact and high convenience for city-goers.
Photo courtesy of Toyota UK.