Presented at CES earlier this year, the i-ROAD is one of those innovations that may make drivers scratch their heads a bit when they first see it – it’s electrical, three-wheeled, and doesn’t really look like anything anyone has driven before. Yet it immediately makes us wonder: is it the future of urban transportation?
The i-ROAD is not a car, it’s a game-changing concept.
Half-car, half-motorbike, the i-ROAD is, in itself, a whole new concept for urban motorized transportation. The ultra-compact three-wheeler EV was conceived to make the driver feel “at one” with his machine. The i-ROAD is super light and super-narrow (90cm-wide) making it perfect for small streets and agile driving. It’s even supposed to be fitted for bike-lanes, an assumption that will hinge, of course, on cities’ policies.
From the perspective of Mr. Yanaka, the Project General Manager tasked with developing the i-ROAD:
“The i-ROAD combines the ease of handling of a motorbike and the drive stability and comfort of a car.”
So what and who is the i-ROAD for?
The i-ROAD is first and foremost an urban vehicle. There won’t be any need to own a driver’s license to drive the car/motorbike’s as its maximum speed is set to 45kh/h. According to the i-ROAD team, the vehicle is perfect for distances around 50km.
For those who have had the chance to try out the i-ROAD, their first driving experience spurred in a lot of curiosity and fun, despite the few hiccups such as the limited leg-room and the scariness of the first turns.
However, the i-ROAD also proved to be highly maneuverable, responsive given its ability to respond to test driver’s slight movements, and capable of stopping very quickly, a feature that is non-negotiable for a vehicle of this type in a densely populated urban area.
Imagine a new way to travel short distances.
If you are an urban-living person and need to commute by car rather than public transportation or bike, you are part of the vast majority of annoyed and depressed urban drivers. Everyday, both morning and night, you are stuck in traffic jams. You know all the radio shows by heart, you have a fast-dial “Will be late. Stuck in traffic” text ready to send to your boss, you spend a good proportion of your salary in gas, and you always struggle to find a quick parking spot to stop by the grocery store on your way back home.
Imagine being able to hop on a cool-looking, fun-to-drive car, driving through smooth traffic flow all the way to your workplace, and never having to fight for a parking spot, all while emitting no CO2. This sounds pretty futuristic. Yet you’ll be able to have a preview of this urban-dream in Grenoble, where Toyota will hold a test of i-ROAD for curious drivers at the end of the year. This project, co-organized with the city of Grenoble and Electricité de France, will install 70 vehicles on a car-sharing basis.
A similar i-ROAD test drive event has already been held in Toyota Ecoful Town in Japan. “Beta testers” reported the “felt total unity with the i-ROAD.” and passionately stated that their test-drive “[was] an exhilarating driving experience.”
So when will drivers be able to get their own i-ROAD?
Many of those lucky few who had the chance to test the i-ROAD would undoubtedly love to get their hands on one. However, the i-ROAD is still part of a car-sharing project by Toyota and there won’t be any private sales, at least for now. Keep your eyes peeled though as given the cities’ increasing focus on green solutions as well as creating more ‘liveable’ cities, we wouldn’t be surprised if you see an i-ROAD gliding by you in the (somewhat) near future.
Curious? Have a quick look at the i-ROAD in action:
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