Toyota brought a couple of its i-Road electric vehicle prototypes to California to gauge public opinion. CNET took the opportunity for a ride.
The i-Road is a three-wheel single seater designed for quick urban transport.
The i-Road's lithium-ion electric battery gives it a range of 30 miles, ample for city distances.
The front wheels are each driven by an electric motor of 2 kilowatts. The i-Road's top speed is 37 mph.
The rear wheel turns, giving the i-Road a turning radius of about 9 feet.
There is no direct linkage between the steering wheel and rear wheel. An electric motor turns the pod holding the wheel.
The front wheels each have their own adjustable suspension.
The steering wheel is straight from the Toyota parts bin.
Doors open on either side of the cabin, making for flexibility in access and parking.
The push-button drive selector includes reverse.
With three wheels, the i-Road is self-supporting and does not need a kickstand.
With plastic body panels, the i-Road weighs 660 pounds.
The canopy and windshield wiper make the i-Road suitable for driving in the rain.
The i-Road's real trick is in the way it leans over in a turn.
The front wheels shift on their suspensions to allow the i-Road to lean, helping stability.
Taking a turn too fast causes the steering wheel to vibrate.
Toyota also programmed in traction control for driving on slippery surfaces.
The single headlight makes the i-Road a day and night driver.
A USB port in the cabin serves to charge up personal electronics.
Sonar sensors on the side of the i-Road measure the distance to the ground when it is leaning.
The i-Road includes a standard J1772 electric-vehicle charging port.
Charging takes about 3 hours from a 120-volt source.
With its limited speed and range, the i-Road qualifies as a neighborhood electric vehicle in the US.