Toyota began phase two of its Open Road project last Saturday in Japan to verify that its tilting electric three-wheeler i-Road works in the real world.
Urban growth is quickly becoming the new way of life around the globe, and with it challenges to transportation.
As city traffic congestion continues to worsen, automakers are looking at alternatives to the automobile, and Toyota’s entry is the i-Road.
This second phase of tests looks at consumer and business use to obtain feedback.
Consumers, or “test pilots” will drive mostly two-seat versions of the i-Road for two weeks to a month. The main target is households with children.
In order to understand the marketability of the i-Road, Toyota is providing the little EV to businesses.
Primarily, one-seaters, the focus is on business firms without company cars, or those looking to add variety to their fleets. The aim is a better understanding of how compact electric vehicles are used in a shared environment.
Both groups will have access to information about charging, helping to convert charge time into driving distance, and a network of around 200 exclusive parking spots around Tokyo.
The parking spaces can be tracked and reserved through a smartphone app, with some of them equipped with charging stations.
The i-Road was introduced in 2013 with a driving range of 30 miles from a small lithium-ion battery, and is being used in car-sharing programs in Grenoble, France and Japan.
Toyota gave i-Road demonstration rides in the US last year in Silicon Valley and Houston, TX to get feedback from American consumers.
If the i-Road finds it way to America, it likely would be classified as a neighborhood vehicle (NEV), a category of vehicles that are legally limited to roads with speed limits up to 45 mph.
NEVs require no special driving license or helmet.
Part one of the Open Road project just ended where 96 Tokyo residents were selected from approximately 3,500 applicants to test the i-Road for short periods of time.
To follow the Open Road project, Toyota has established a web site: http://openroad-project.com/