Riding an enclosed two-wheeler is far more akin to flying a microlight aircraft than to road travel.
Riding an enclosed two-wheeler is far more akin to flying a microlight aircraft than to road travel.
The system automatically moves the wheels up and down in opposite directions, applying lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.
The system automatically moves the wheels up and down in opposite directions, applying lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.
Like the BMW C1, it has seat belts so occupants are not allowed to wear crash helmets.
Like the BMW C1, it has seat belts so occupants are not allowed to wear crash helmets.
Because you do not have to put your feet down, the i-Road can have an enclosed body.
Because you do not have to put your feet down, the i-Road can have an enclosed body.

This, Toyota would have us believe, is a new form of transport. Which it's not. The last new form of transport we saw was the Segway, and we all know how many of those are still in use.

What this is, however, is a brilliant synthesis of ideas, which is what Toyota, historically, has always done best.

This electric grasshopper is the i-Road, an “all-electric, three-wheeled personal mobility vehicle with a comfortable, enclosed two-seater cabin”; it's booked for a starring role on the Toyota stand at next week's Geneva show.

The scooter-with-a-roof concept - and the windscreen design - come from the 2000 BMW C1 and like the C1, it has seat belts so occupants are not allowed to wear crash helmets.

The front end, however, is pure Piaggio MP3.

It’s not as neat as Piaggio did it on the original 2008 version, but it has to deal with a lot more weight.

The rear treatment has elements of Malcolm Newell's 1976 Quasar, and the side enclosures are borrowed from the Renault Twizy.

What is new, however, is that it's front-wheel drive, with a 2kW electric motor in each front wheel. Toyota doesn't give a power rating for the lithium-ion battery pack - or performance figures either, for that matter - beyond claiming that it can be ridden up to 50km on a charge, and recharged in only three hours from a 220V domestic power supply.

The i-Road is 2350mm long and 1445mm high on a 1700mm wheelbase - but what's more important is that it's only 850mm wide, about the same a mid-size scooter, and will cut through traffic like a motorcycle under favourable conditions.

And for those of us who wear anoraks...

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS

A geared 'lean actuator' is mounted above the front suspension member, linked by a yoke to the left and right front wheels.

An electronic control 'black box' calculates the required degree of lean based on steering angle, gyro-sensor and vehicle speed information, and the system then automatically moves the wheels up and down in opposite directions, applying lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.

The system also works when the i-Road is being ridden in a straight line over uneven surfaces, with the actuator automatically compensating for changes in the road surface to keep the body level, while the yoke enables impressive steering deflection, giving the i-Road a minimum turning circle of just three metres.

LOOK MA, NO FEET!

Toyota says you don't have to be a biker to pilot an i-Road; the active lean system provides the enjoyment of riding a two-wheeler, but with no need for the driver to stabilise the vehicle at low speed, or when stationary.

And the term pilot is not used lightly; anybody who has ever ridden an enclosed two-wheeler will testify that it is far more akin to flying a microlight aircraft than to road travel.

Because you don't have to put your feet down, the i-Road can have an enclosed body, making practical features such as lighting, heating, audio and Bluetooth to be provided.