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Geneva show: Toyota hits the micro i-Road

Lean machine: The Toyota i-Road employs ‘Active Lean’ technology that automatically balances the vehicle when cornering.

Two-seater three-wheeler Toyota mini-car emerges on eve of Geneva motor show

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Toyota logo4 Mar 2013

By TERRY MARTIN

TOYOTA has taken the covers from its i-Road two-seater mini-car on the eve of the Geneva motor show, paving the way for a new electric-powered personal mobility vehicle designed for commuters in congested cities.

A rival for Renault’s Twizy, Honda’s Micro Commuter and similar urban vehicles, the narrow-bodied three-wheeled i-Road rests on a 1700mm wheelbase and measures 2350mm long, 1445mm high and, crucially, 850mm wide to enable easy manoeuvring through traffic.

In comparison, the Twizy is considerably wider at around 1250mm (depending on whether doors/mirrors are fitted) but similar in length/height (2338mm/1454mm) and built on 1686mm wheelbase.

In order to provide high levels of “stability, safety, comfort and fun-to-drive character”, Toyota has also developed ‘Active Lean’ technology – similar to that used on the Nissan Land Glider – which automatically balances the vehicle when cornering.

Toyota says the system uses a lean actuator and gearing mounted above the front suspension member, linked via a yoke to the left and right front wheels.

“An ECU 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 centrifugal force of cornering,” the company says.

The i-Road’s all-electric powertrain includes a lithium-ion battery that powers two 2kW motors mounted in the front wheels, providing a range of up to 50km on a single charge.

Recharging takes up to three hours from a conventional domestic power supply.

Presented alongside the production-oriented 86 convertible concept in Geneva, the i-Road stands as a bigger brother to Toyota’s tiny single-seat Smart Insect (information network social electric city transporter) concept unveiled late last year.

Both urban vehicles – and the 86 drop-top – are still to be confirmed for series production.

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