Toyota has reaffirmed its commitment to battery-powered electric mobility by unveiling the funky i-Road concept car this week at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.
Designed as a flexible and cost-effective mode of transport for busy urban environments, the new i-Road concept is essentially an electric three-wheeler with a closed canopy design.
But the i-Road has one very interesting feature, it’s new “Active Lean” self-leaning system designed to automatically balance the vehicle when cornering or travelling over rough surfaces.
The vehicle also features an electric drivetrain, which Toyota says provides a range of about 50 kilometres on a single charge and a top speed of 45 kmh. A lithium-ion battery powers a pair of 2-kilowatt electric motors driving the front wheels and takes about 3 hours to charge using an ordinary household power outlet.
But it’s the Active Lean technology that’s the real highlight here. Designed to offer high levels of stability, safety and comfort, while also allowing virtually anyone to be capable of driving the i-Road, Active Lean uses a lean actuator and gearing mounted above the front suspension member, linked via a yoke to the left and right front wheels.
A computer calculates the required degree of lean based on steering angle, gyro-sensor and vehicle speed information, with the system automatically moving the wheels up and down in opposite directions, applying lean angle to counteract the forces of cornering. The system also operates when the i-Road is being driven in a straight line over rough surfaces. The actuator automatically compensates for changes in the road to keep the body level.
This design also allows for a more car-like environment, with the potential for features such as lighting, heating, audio and connectivity to be provided. Importantly, occupants--yes, two adults can fit inside via tandem seating--don't need to wear a helmet.
The three-wheeled i-Road measures 2.3 metres long, 1.4 metres high, 0.8 metres wide, and weighs just over 299 kilograms. Toyota hasn’t mentioned any production plans but says it could envisage i-Road-type vehicles replacing cars in busy urban centres in the very near future.