As city traffic and congestion continues to worsen, auto manufacturers are pushing to mix the maneuverability and efficiency of a motorcycle with the comfort and stability of a car. So far, the Toyota i-Road appears to be on the right track, with a tiny on-road footprint and decent electric range. To make sure the tilting three-wheeler works in the real world, Toyota is handing a fleet of i-Roads over to consumers and businesses as round two of its Open Road Project.
The initial stages of this phase of testing will focus on a small number of test pilots, most of whom are households with young children, in the Shibuya and Setagaya Wards of Tokyo. They'll spend between two weeks and one month behind the wheel of a two-seat i-Road, giving Toyota information about how the vehicle meets their "mobility needs."
Having handed two-seat i-Roads to a set of consumers, Toyota will also be testing if one-seat variants are useful to businesses in central Tokyo. The study will focus on companies without any cars, or companies looking to add variety to their fleets, and aims to give Toyota a better understanding of how compact electric vehicles are used in a shared environment.
Both groups will have access to a trial service that gives users more information about charging, helping convert charge time into electricity usage figures, and a network of around 200 exclusive narrow parking spots scattered around Tokyo. The parks can be tracked and reserved through a smartphone app, and some of them include charge points.
The i-Road was first shown back in 2013, complete with an electric range of 30 mi (50 km). Although its yet to reach series production, the i-Road is being used by the French city of Grenoble as a part of a wider car-sharing program, and the car is also being trialed in a last-mile car-sharing program in Japan.
Part one of the Open Road Project saw hand-picked Tokyo locals get behind the wheel of an i-Road for short periods of time, giving them a taste of what it would be like to live with the 2-kW (2.7-hp) tilting three-wheeler. Round two will run between September 17 and March 31 in 2017.