Three years ago, Toyota dipped its toes into electric personal mobility with a three-wheeled, tilting two-seater concept called the i-Road. The company has now added extra passenger space and another wheel for a low speed urban runabout it's calling the i-Tril Concept, which Toyota says can drive itself if needed but is designed to be so much fun that the up front occupant will want to take control.
The i-Tril Concept is kind of like a four-wheeled mash up of the odd-but-fun Twizy electric go-kart from Renault and Nissan's Land Glider. It's making its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show this week and has been created in collaboration with Toyota's French design studio ED2 to stimulate the senses, and as a fun alternative to A/B segment cars, electric vehicles, public transport and motorcycles.
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The company has a specific market for the vehicle, aiming it squarely at "a sophisticated, single, 30-50 year old active female with two children and a vibrant lifestyle" who lives in a small to medium-sized town.
The 600 kg (about 1.320 lb), 2.83 m (9.3 ft) long and 1.46 m (4.8 ft) high concept incorporates Toyota's Active Lean technology, with a hinge positioned between the vehicle's rear axle and cabin so that the rear 20-inch tires can stay firmly gripped to the road while the front of the i-Tril gets its lean on. More of a twist than a lean, then.
This configuration makes the i-Tril 1.2 m (3.9 ft) wide at the front, with a 0.6 m (2 ft) rear track width, and offers an impressively tight turning circle of just four meters (13 ft). The vehicle's unspecified electric motor is housed in the hinged rear axle structure and drives the rear wheels, while the front wheels (with 19-inch tires) and fenders are independent of the main body to facilitate a 10 degree tilt.
Toyota hasn't shared any details of top speed and 0-62 mph sprint capabilities, but range is given as over 200 km (124 mi) per charge. Though self-driving tech has been included in the concept, Toyota firmly believes that drivers will want to take such things into their own hands for much of their journeys.
That driver is positioned in the center in go-kart-like seating, with a two-person bench behind – which allows passengers in the rear a better view of the road ahead, while also gaining some extra legroom. But, there doesn't appear to be a trunk, so passengers may have to share the cabin with the shopping ... not good.
In an attempt to make entry and exit as easy as possible, when the butterfly-opening doors attached to the sloping A pillars open, a section of the floor goes with them, the front seat can swivel by up to 20 degrees and occupants can step down and out.
Interestingly, i-Tril drivers won't have much to do with their feet as steering, acceleration and braking are all handled via drive-by-wire tech and control nodes hidden beneath the driving module fabric, which extend toward the driver's hands. The instrument binnacle has gone too, with vital information provided by a head-up display.
In autonomous mode, occupants are warned of upcoming turns by left/right lighting on the dash. Toyota also sees voice activation technology playing a central role in operating the infotainment system and communicating with the vehicle.
You can see the short i-Tril promo video below. And be sure to head to our gallery for photos from the show floor and more.