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Toyota’s i-Road hits the streets

The Toyota i-Road

The company is set to start consumer trials of its latest futuristic two-seater electric car.

Expect huge queues of willing participants to start forming on the streets of Tokyo on Monday as testing gets underway, but those hoping for a test drive will be disappointed. Toyota is limiting the initial trial to 20 participants and 10 vehicles. Until June anyway.

The i-Road is by no means the only ultra-compact futuristic electric car in development, but what makes it so much fun is that it has three, rather than four wheels, and combines the best elements of a car with the best features of a motorbike.

Like a bike, it’s small and very maneuverable — four of them can fit into a standard car-parking space — and it even tilts into corners. Yet it has doors, windows and a roof and is as stable and as comfortable as a car.

Capable of hitting a top speed of 28-37mph (45-60km/h) and of travelling 31 miles (50 km) on a single charge, the i-Road is so small — less than a meter wide and less than 2.5 meters in length — it should never get held up in traffic and, as early reviewers have noted, it drives like nothing else currently on the road and is charming and compelling in equal measure.

Toyota hopes that the consumer testing will provide valuable feedback regarding ease of use, satisfaction and suitability in urban environments, and, as well as ‘typical’ consumers, has selected ‘trend’ and industry experts as initial testers in the trial.