Toyota i-Road Electric Microcar: Live Photos From Geneva

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The annual Geneva Motor Show is a haven for weird and wonderful concept vehicles, and one of the strangest this year is the Toyota i-Road concept.

The i-Road is described by Toyota as "a new form of transport", designed as an easy-to-maneuver, zero-emissions form of inner-city transport.

We've heard that brief before, of course. It's the reason Smart exists, and Renault already has such a car in production, in the form of the Twizy.

The three-wheeled Toyota offers some advantages over either of these vehicles though.

For a start, it's narrower than the Smart Fortwo. At just over 33 inches wide, it's no more portly than the average two-wheeled vehicle, allowing it to slip through gaps that regular cars wouldn't attempt.

That makes it narrower than the Twizy too, though the i-Road's second ace card is its fully-enclosed cabin, sparing you the weather-beating you'd get in a Twizy in poor conditions. Like the Twizy, it has two seats, positioned in tandem.

Like the motorcycles its width emulates, the i-Road also leans into corners, endowing it with the sort of stability that may not be possible from a rigid upright vehicle. Based on the steering input, an ECU calculates an appropriate degree of lean, moving either front wheel up or down depending on the corner.

The system can also account for bumpy roads, keeping the vehicle level as it drives along. It can turn around in under ten feet, and unlike a motorcycle the driver need not put their feed down when stationary--the vehicle self-stabilizes.

The i-Road's powertrain is modest, but suitable for the city conditions it's designed for. Two 2 kW electric motors (that's just over 5 horsepower total) send power to the front wheels, and a small electric battery pack provides enough juice for 30 miles of running. A charge, says Toyota, takes three hours from a standard outlet--given the Geneva launch, we're guessing that refers to a 220-240V European outlet.

As you might imagine, there are no plans for a production i-Road as yet.

However, Toyota believes the electric vehicle's key environment is for short-distance city transport, so future electric vehicles from the company are likely to be small vehicles such as this--while hybrids and fuel cell vehicles dominate in larger cars.

Check out our full Geneva Motor Show page for more launches, photos and information from the show.


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Comments (8)
  1. "As you might imagine, there are no plans for a production i-Road as yet."

    This is true, but I like to add that a car sharing program in the French city of Grenoble, with 70 i-Roads, is planned for the end of 2014 and for a duration of 3 years. You might conclude from it that Toyota sees the i-Road as more then just a concept-without-a-future.

  2. If Toyota really decides to take the i-Road into production, then a crossover which is more car-like than motor scooter (rather than the other way round) will have market potential too, particularly when it is safer, more comfortable and more versatile than the i-Road. Toyota's approach to an 'urban runabout' leaves a wide open gap for that almost forgotten transportation mode Germans brought us in the Fifties: the Isetta, Messerschmitt and Heinkel. With a bit of luck, there will be one. Check out

  3. eric while the newisetta is interesting its too much like conventional cars minus one wheel for my liking. I have owned three wheelers and studied their design and found them to be fatally flawed by conflicting requirements of roll control and passenger comfort. I prefer the tilting i-Road which would fill a totally unique and unrivalled market segment. Attributes- Leaning into curves is natural, less foot print,soft suspension for comfort without compromising stability,more aerodynamic, more efficient for transporting one or two humans, more dynamic,not to mention the self-satisfaction of transporting the human body comfortably in something hardly larger than oneself.

  4. This new type of vehicle is long overdue and has been touted for a decade now without anyone taking up the challenge.A narrow tilting three or four wheeler the size of a motorcycle but with more safety and weather protection would create a new segment in the market place. Hope some big manufacturer is brave enough to take that step soon.

  5. I studied several of the videos and while I realise they are computer generated it almost appears there is some rear wheel steer involved. With the front wheels so close to the body and wrapped in fairings they would not be able to steer. If this is correct it would certainly be unusual.

  6. This will never go in to production. I don't really understand why they do it. Wouldn't they be better off building a real Ev.

  7. Robin the reason they and all the others do it is to get public reaction or to show the way they are thinking. Fact is they do go into production with way out ideas sometimes,look at the IQ, The Prius etc. As to building a real Ev do you mean this car or something like the Tesla?
    I would be first in line to purchase this tilting vehicle if they ever produce it.

  8. Toyota has a great concept (Narrow, Enclosed, Tilting, Commuter); BUT its limited performance (30 mi. range, 28mph speed) severely limits its practicality and marketability in today's society. While less than 30mph might be OK for a city center; getting there on 45-55mph roads would be impractical and dangerous. Most city dwellers live in apartments and high rises and would find parking, storing and recharging impractical. Might be good for a “Car Sharing” business. Now if Toyota could come up with an i-Road-2 with 100 mile range and a top speed of 65-75mph, then they would have the “Commuter of the Future” for suburbanites , and would sell hundreds of thousands; I know I'd buy one!

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