Toyota's leaning EV may be the most fun car at the Geneva show
The 2013 Geneva Motor Show is packed to the gills with sports cars, super cars, and uber-exclusive hypercars, but the vehicle that looks like the most fun to drive is the little iRoad EV Concept in the Toyota booth.
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Not a car, not a bike
The iRoad is an inverted trike with a tandem seating configuration, placing space for cargo or a single passenger behind the central driver's seat. The entire parkable package is about the size of a biggish motorcycle or scooter, but requires no balancing or effort from the driver to keep upright.
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Whisper-quiet electric power
Each of the iRoad's narrow, scooter-like front wheels is powered by a 2kW electric motor. Toyota claims that the iRoad is able to travel about 30 miles before its lithium ion battery pack needs recharging. At household power levels, that should take about 3 hours.
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Rear wheel steering
The iRoad actually steers with its single rear wheel, which mounts to the body on a swivel and allows the vehicle to tuck into an extremely tight turning radius that is ideal for the tight turns of the urban environs and heavy traffic that Toyota imagines the EV will inhabit.
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Active Lean system
A tight turning radius combined with a narrow, tall body should make the iRoad prone to overturning, but Toyota has equipped the EV with a gyro-controlled Active Lean system. When cornering hard, the iRoad's suspension leans the body into the turn, much like a motorcyclist would, increasing grip as the front wheels are driven into the road by centripetal force. The Active Lean system also works when the vehicle driving on cambered surfaces, keeping the body upright even when not cornering.
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Carves every corner
We were able to watch Toyota's booth workers whip the iRoad Concept around a closed, indoor course at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show and, I must say, it looks like a blast to drive. The turning radius is unbeliveably small and the drivers were able to carry quite a bit of speed, the EV leaning more deeply into each bend as the cornering speed increased. The front-drive configuration appeared to help keep the trike from spinning out when silently accelerating out of a tight turn.
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"A very serious proposition"
Toyota calls the iRoad "a very serious proposition" in its press release, but mentions no plans to actually build the EV in any significant quantity. Most likely, this project is primarily meant to draw attention to Toyota's lithium-ion battery and other alternative fuel technologies, which most immediately will affect the automaker's more conventional hybrid and electric vehicles.
I hope my guess is wrong and we do see a leaning EV like the iRoad on the road soon. I'll be holding my breath for a chance to get behind the wheel.