Toyota i-Road EVs trialled for last-mile car-sharing
By Jack Martin
March 6, 2014
Toyota’s electric i-Road three-wheeler is shaping up as the ideal combination of the best attributes of a motorcycle (maneuverability, lightweight, narrow track, small footprint, low energy consumption, fun) and a car (weather-proof, safe, stable, easy to use) and trials have now begun in Japan using the i-Road and the narrow-track COMS EV in Toyota’s Ha:mo (Harmonious Mobility) vehicle-sharing project. The i-Road trials will be extended to France later this year when Toyota participates in a vehicle-sharing trial in the city of Grenoble.
Since the i-Road was first announced twelve months ago this week, Toyota has developed the tandem two-seater further with a single-seat version hiding in the new mobility area of the Tokyo Motor Show in November 2013, where it was shown among the vehicles to be used for Ha:mo. That's it below with the Ha:mo COMS narrow-track EV from Toyota Motor Body, a Toyota subsidiary.
The narrow track of the i-Road combined with its ease-of-use, all-weather and driver protection, could lead to it becoming the star of the narrow-track vehicle class when it is finally released. The vehicle-sharing schemes are enabling Toyota to see how non-motorcyclists feel about the vehicle, as well as promoting its convenience and usability to the public.
Last year Toyota signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Grenoble, the Grenoble-Alpes Métropole, car-sharing service operator Cité lib and French energy provider Électricité de France (EDF) to create a collaborative zero-emission ultra-compact urban car-sharing project specifically addressing "last mile" transportation for public transport users.
Approximately 70 ultra-compact urban electric vehicles will be provided by Toyota for the French self-service car-sharing scheme, including the i-Road and the narrow-track COMS EV from Toyota Auto Body – both vehicles built specifically for urban driving and their efficient use of parking spaces. Like the high-performance Tango EV we covered more than a decade ago, three iRoads or COMS can fit into a single parking space.
Toyota obviously sees the benefits of participating in such schemes on several levels, as the Ha:mo project is primarily research into comprehensive car-sharing schemes to explore the utility and business feasibility of co-modality transport solutions. The research objective is to better understand the relationship between the different modes of public and individual transportation in an urban environment, as well as to better identify the "last mile" mobility needs of consumers.
Toyota is providing its proprietary One-Mile Mobility Management System to the project, a centralized IT management system that enables users to check the availability and location car-sharing vehicles and book them through smartphones. The system will also allow the fleet operator to optimize vehicle allocation throughout the charging station network. EDF is setting up a network of charging stations and Cité lib, which operates a car-sharing business in Grenoble, will handle daily operations and customer service.
Toyota's One-Mile Mobility Management System offers many ways of facilitating multi-modal transport across a city, with users able to make reservations for vehicles using a smartphone app, and it integrates with a Hitachi-developed integrated bus operations management system to enable riders to easily access a list of the schedules and routes of multiple bus companies.
The service also acts as a regional traffic information portal, and functionality is currently being developed for push notifications of predicted traffic congestion along registered user routes, route recommendation and weekly traffic congestion forecasts that encourage the use of different roads and transportation methods.
In Japan, where the Ha:mo is being developed in Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture, the Toyota Auto Body-produced COMS car-sharing electric vehicles and Yamaha’s PAS power-assisted electric bicycles are already part of the research project’s sharing scheme offerings.
In October 2013, Gizmag reported that the i-Road was being fast-tracked into production and though there’s no availability date set for the general public, it’s imminent release is seemingly inevitable. Check out the gallery section for images of the public using the i-Road.