Toyota’s i-Road is unlike any vehicle on the roads today. It’s been undergoing rigorous testing, and now the all-electric motorcycle-tipsy-car is set to hit markets in Japan and France this year.
At every convention the vehicle has been to it’s been welcomed by wide eyes and giddy smiles. Matthew de Paula test drove the i-Road and described the feeling behind the wheel as “being in a motor boat, airplane, and low-slung sports car all at once.” The i-Road’s unique three wheel futuristic design is more than just looks. For low speeds a back wheel turns for steering, but its main steering is done by leaning into curves like a motorcycle.
It’s more than just the driving experience that Toyota has engineered with the i-Road. The vehicle is electric and designed to be an around-the-town substitute for your car. Ergo less burning fuel. Ergo less global warming. There are two seats, one behind the other, and a small storage space. Being the size of a large motorcycle makes navigation easy and parking versatile. Plus you’ve got your AC, music and more of those simple car-time pleasures.
Steering the i-Road is done by a special steering wheel that vibrates if the G meter is at maximum lean. Makoto Morita, chief engineer for the Toyota i-Road, said the hardest part in designing the i-Road was finding harmony between the electric and mechanic systems. That’s not surprising considering how much movement is going on. The wheels shift vertically to create the lean. The driver stays comfortably seated behind the wheel, giving that airplane-like feel as angles change.
Reports from test drives have come back positive and the demand from consumers says the market is ready for Toyota’s i-Road. The only complaint that seems to come up often are reports of nausea from driving a tilting car. Space is tight and claustrophobia threatens. All in all, though, everyone agrees it’s an awesome ride. Once the i-Road is tested in its first markets consumers can expect to see Toyota’s futuristic errand-runner on streets soon.
The excitement is well timed for Toyota. The company has been facing major criticism after some big recalls. With the i-Road the buzz in media is positive and consumers in Japan and France have the unique chance to be proud first owners of the revolutionary vehicle. No word has been given on when consumers in the States can expect to see the i-Road in stores.