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Geneva show: Toyota’s fresh angle on future transport

Question: What will future generations expect from us? Toyota’s answer: A little urban runabout that is not only easy on the environment but fun to drive at slow speeds.

European-developed Toyota i-TRIL concept addresses future mobility needs of society

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Toyota logo8 Mar 2017

By TERRY MARTIN

JAPANESE motor industry giant Toyota has turned to the south of France, Nice, for guidance on the mobility needs of urban society in 2030 and future generations of vehicle buyers, with the result emerging at the Geneva motor show overnight in the form of the electric-powered, autonomous three-seater dubbed i-TRIL.

Toyota Motor Europe (TME) was charged with developing the new concept car, and its designers and engineers from its so-called ED² European design centre on the French Riviera were, as TME president and CEO Johan Van Zyl explained, directed to “get out of their offices, to go and observe our target younger audience and then to be ready to answer what will future generations expect from us?” Brought forward to explain the result, chief designer Pierre Romeo said: “In a word, I think the future is all about variety, allowing mobility to become more specific to what people really want, rather than just a general ‘one size fits all’.

“If you’re living in the city, commuting, running the kids to school, shopping, but you still want to have a bit of fun, then this is the answer for you.

“It’s basically a 1+2 concept, with the driver up front and the two rear seats offset either side. Plenty of leg space for everyone, and a completely open, panoramic view forward dedicated to the driver. It has an electric powertrain good for more than 200km range in real life and is ready for the autonomous era.

“The whole interior is designed to create a welcoming fun and relaxed space for all the passengers.” Along similar lines to the i-Road concept shown in Geneva in 2013, the i-TRIL also employs “active lean” technology which has a hinge between the cabin and rear axle that allows the body and front tyres (19-inch) to lean during cornering to an angle of 10 degrees while the rear tyres (20-inch) remain perpendicular to the road.

This is said to be ideal for combining stability, grip and, not least of all, more driving pleasure and less chance of car sickness.

The leaning tech is allied to 25 degrees of front-wheel steering, equipping the i-TRIL with a turning circle of just four metres.

Confident about the i-TRIL’s place in the world, Toyota claims the concept car is a “viable alternative” to city cars, other electric vehicles, public transport and motorcycles.

Driven by an unspecified electric motor, the little runabout weighs only 600kg and measures just 2830mm long, 1510mm high and has 1200mm front and 600mm rear tracks.

Entry to the vehicle is made via butterfly-opening doors hinged on the sloping windscreen pillars, which take a section of the floor with them to make stepping in and out an easier task, while the front seats can also be swivelled by up to 20 degrees for improved ingress/egress.

The seating area is described as “spacious” for all three occupants, while comfort and tradition were top of mind with the selection of Alcantara trim up front, cloth upholstery for the rear bench seat and wood for the flooring (all recycled materials).

There are no pedals, leaving the driver to handle steering, acceleration and braking using drive-by-wire control nodes (similar to video game controllers or computer mice), and a head-up display is used to transmit all relevant information in lieu of an instrument binnacle.

Voice activation technology is used for controlling multimedia and infotainment systems, but in a nod to simple common sense and practicality, lights are positioned at the far left and right of the dashboard to let the rear-seat passengers know which way the cabin is about to lean.

And just who is the customer Toyota has in mind as the target for this type of vehicle? In the company’s words: “A sophisticated, single, 30-50-year-old active female with two children and a vibrant lifestyle. And she lives in a SMESTO (small to medium-sized town).”

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