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Toyota i-ROAD: Done before – but maybe this one will catch on?

  • Weatherproof single-seater scoot from Toyota
  • Lack of range and no pillion are going to cost sales
  • Heating and sound system listed as optional extras
TAKING THE I-ROAD: A fresh approach to inexpensive electric commuting. Image: Toyota
TAKING THE I-ROAD: A fresh approach to inexpensive electric commuting. Image: Toyota

GIVEN the new road taxes about to be introduced by the South African government and local authorities in South Africa, here’s a very sensible vehicle for the solo commuter – a weatherproof three-wheeler.

Yes, it’s been done before, but these minitrikes include the latest in vehicle technology. In fact, you can take the I-Road (geddit?) BMW Motorrad did an excellent job in 2000 with its two-wheeled, incredibly fuel-efficient C1 125 and 200cc enclosed scooter.

BMW C1: This fun, semi-enclosed- 125/200cc scoot was launched in 2000 but discontinued in 2002. Image: BMW Motorrad
BMW C1: This fun, semi-enclosed- 125/200cc scoot was launched in 2000 but discontinued in 2002. Image: BMW Motorrad

Strangely, they never really caught on – neither have three-wheelers – and was discontinued in 2002. An electric version arrived in 2010 but never reached South Africa.

NEW, MORE FLEXIBLE

This tribike, first shown in concept at the 2013 Geneva auto show as a ”personal mobility vehicle” has been transformed into a road-legal version capable of circumventing some city congestion and creating enhanced mobility.

How it will circumvent traffic jams is not immediately obvious… lane-splitting cannot be an option.

A PMV, Toyota says, is a new, more flexible, type of transport for urban driving that is significantly more comfortable than a scooter or motor-cycle thanks to being weatherproof, stable and crash-safe.

The Corner hopes there will also be a longer two-seater…

TAKING THE I-ROAD: A fresh approach to inexpensive electric commuting. Image: Toyota
TAKING THE I-ROAD: A fresh approach to inexpensive electric commuting. Image: Toyota

They share the zero-emissions and low running-cost virtues of electric vehicles but their dimensions – in particular their width – are said to be similar to those of a conventional two-wheeler which, their maker says, ”gives them the essential manoeuvrability needed for negotiating city traffic – and easy parking”.

READ MORE Toyota features on Carman’s Corner

The i-Road was on show in February 2019 at at Toyota SA’s ‘State of the Motor Industry’ address delivered in Midrand, Gauteng.

Essentially, Toyota says, the original design has been refined to improve the scoot’s visibility, weatherproofing, manoeuvrability and general user-friendliness.

TAKING THE I-ROAD: A fresh approach to inexpensive electric commuting. Image: Toyota
TAKING THE I-ROAD: A fresh approach to inexpensive electric commuting. Image: Toyota

”The doors have gained non-powered windows,” the automaker explained, ”making the i-Road weatherproof and giving it a considerable advantage over conventional two-wheelers in that it can be driven without a helmet or protective clothing in any weather.

NO CARGO SPACE?

The rear has been redesigned, in a choice of five vivid colours, with less rear overhang, restyled and repositioned combination lights, and a small rear window and the trike measures 2,35m long, 1.46m high and 87cm wide riding on a 1.70m wheelbase – slightly shorter than the original, 10mm taller and 20mm wider.

There is no mention of cargo space for your briefcase or even a rucsac… but a standard parking bay will take four of them.

Power comes from a lithium-ion battery delivered to 1.9kW electric motors – one on each front wheel. With ”brisk acceleration” and ”near-silent” running, the i-Road has a driving range of around 50km at a fixed 30km/h (which speed in traffic is going to be underwhelming – Editor).

COMPUTER STEERING

A recharge from a household socket will take three hours so if you rode the i-Road to work, charged it there, and rode home you’d have to wait a while before going out again. Not too good, there… where will you charge it at the office or factory?

A conventional, but small, steering-wheel directs the machine through the rear wheel with sympathetic support from the yoked fronts. It’s computer controlled. Turning circle is a mere three metres and, of course, there is no need to support the machine when stationary.

Cabin heating and sound system will be options.

The i-Road was developed in Grenoble, France, with three years of testing involving 35 three-wheelers. The Corner wishes the baby bike well…

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