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Toyota shows the i-Road – a fully-enclosed, tilting, electric three-wheeled competitor for the motorcycle


March 4, 2013

Toyota's i-ROAD is a fully-enclosed, two-seater, three-wheeled, fully-electric, Personal Mobility Vehicle (PMV)

Toyota's i-ROAD is a fully-enclosed, two-seater, three-wheeled, fully-electric, Personal Mobility Vehicle (PMV)

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Toyota rocked the automotive world a few hours ago with full details of a new form of transport it will exhibit at the Geneva Motor Show which begins tomorrow. Toyota's i-ROAD is a fully-enclosed, two-seater, three-wheeled, fully-electric, Personal Mobility Vehicle (PMV).

The i-ROAD incorporates what Toyota is calling Toyota ‘Active Lean’ technology, which "automatically balances the vehicle when cornering or traveling over stepped surfaces" according to the press statement.

The 850mm width of the i-ROAD is not much greater than a conventional two-wheeler. (Piaggio's MP3 three wheeler is 760 mm wide), so it is reasonable to assume the i-ROAD as easy to maneuver as a scooter or motorcycle through urban traffic, meaning that Toyota, the world's largest automotive manufacturer, looks set to create a competitor to the motorcycle, but with greater comfort, stability and safety.

Watch the press conference where the i-ROAD was introduced and you'll see why it is likely to become a serious mass market alternative to the motorcycle - two wheels without the cold, rain, discomfort and risk - motorcycling convenience in urban areas for the non-enthusiast.

The i-ROAD's electric powertrain is only good for a range of 30 miles, but can be recharged from a conventional power supply in just three hours.

Seating two in tandem and under cover, i-ROAD is an electric vehicle with a range of up to 30 miles (50km) on a single charge. Using ‘Active Lean’ technology, it is safe, intuitive and enjoyable to drive, with no need for driver or passenger to wear a helmet.

In many ways, the iROAD looks like a further development of a series of three-wheeled prototypes which has been evolving for almost a decade, first as the i-SWING in 2005 (above), then as the i-UNIT in 2006, then the i-REAL which I first drove at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show and then as a subsequent development which the company again allowed me to drive at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

Following the showing of the Nissan Landglider at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, Gizmag published an extensive article and video forecasting a future of narrow track vehicles on public roads. The i-ROAD is definitely cast in the same mold as the Nissan Landglider (below).

Toyota's official statement on the i-ROAD makes it clear that the company foresees a future of mixed mode transport on public roads: "Toyota is paving the way for several types of eco car to co-exist in the future, by adapting its Hybrid Synergy Drive technology for use in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). While hybrids, plug-in hybrids and FCVs are ideal for mainstream use over medium to long distances, Toyota believes in the feasibility of EVs to serve as a main mode of transport for short urban journeys, and has 10 years’ experience in the research and development of PMVs."

"People using this kind of vehicle want something that is more comfortable, offers better weather protection and is safer than a two-wheeler such as a scooter or motorcycle, but has similar benefits of low running costs, easy parking and around-town maneuverability."

The i-ROAD is indeed not much larger than a motorcycle with a length of 2,350mm, a height of 1,445mm and with a wheelbase of 1,700mm. It’s most significant dimension, though, is its width: at only 850mm, it is not much wider than a conventional two-wheeler. Not only does this make for easy maneuvering through congested traffic, it also means that four i-ROADS will fit in a single parking bay.

The zero-emissions, all-electric powertrain uses a lithium-ion battery to power two 2kW motors mounted in the front wheels.

Toyota’s new and entirely intuitive Active Lean technology is the key to i-ROAD’s high levels of stability, safety, comfort and fun-to-drive character. The system uses a lean actuator and gearing mounted above the front suspension member, linked via a yoke to the left and right front wheels. An ECU calculates the required degree of lean based on steering angle, gyro-sensor and vehicle speed information, with the system automatically moving the wheels up and down in opposite directions, applying lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.

The system also operates when the PMV is being driven in a straight line over stepped surfaces, the actuator automatically compensating for changes in the road to keep the body level. The minimum turning circle is just three meters.

No special skills are needed to pilot i-ROAD; the Active Lean system offers a unique driving experience with the enjoyment of riding a two-wheeler, but with no need for the driver to stabilize the vehicle when maneuvering at low speed, or when stationary.

As the driver doesn’t have to put his or her feet on the road surface at any time, i-ROAD can be fitted with a safer, weatherproof, closed body and so can be driven without wearing a helmet. This design also allows for a more car-like environment on board, with the potential for features such as lighting, heating, audio and Bluetooth to be provided.

Toyota envisages its i-ROAD concept has the potential to play a significant role in reducing urban traffic congestion and air pollution. Commuters can use public transport or conventional private vehicles to travel to urban perimeter transportation hubs where they will transfer to the Toyota i-ROAD to complete their journeys into the city center.

The new Toyota PMV’s compact size, maneuverability, easy parking, rapid charging and choice of an open or closed cabin make it an ideal urban vehicle, designed to reduce congestion and CO2, NOx and particulate emissions without compromising individual freedom of mobility.

Watch the i-Road being introduced during Toyota's press conference at the 83rd Geneva International Motor Show in the video below. The second video is a brief Toyota promo for the iRoad.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

Yes, I know we need more campaigns to get charging station around town; but, Toyota needs another bump to match the average Stateside commute.

Roundtrip for an errand to town = 24 miles. With nothing added to the errand. I'd certainly consider one of these if it had a 40-50 mile range.

Ed Campbell

With an 18 mile one-way commute but easy access to an outlet at both my home and work, the 30 mile range on a single charge would actually be fine for me so long as that range holds up under regular highway operation. I could definitely see the appeal of one of these since 85% of my driving is straight to work and back, with occasional small errand detours on the way.

Hope this isn't just another example of Motor Show-centric vaporware!

Galen Sjöström

28 mph top speed? This gadget is dead on arrival outside of Japan. They need to at least double that. The 30 mile range is miserable too. If they bill it as a bike it should go like a bike. Even 100cc scooters are faster then that.

I am following the Lit C1 which has sensible performance specs. There is an electric cabin bike I would buy. And the self-balancing feature does away with the need for a complicated "active lean" capability.


Bob Ehresman

I agree with Bob, I also think Lit Motors C1 will run circles around this thing. Unfortunately (at first) they are going to cost a cool 25k.

Derek Howe

The i-Road is another novel concept in urban transport. I agree with Ed Campbell, the 40-50 mile range is needed. There should also be an option for a scooter engine swap to increase the range using a 250 cc gasoline engine. But then, this defeats the purpose, . . . just thinking!


Massively overcomplicated, not enough range to get across town, and a overly expensive drive system. Aren't lithium batteries causing problems with the Boeing 787s?


Mike, I can see the benefits of such a device, if only around town. I also see it as competition for scooters and bicycles in the same environment, but I can't see it replacing motorcycles, at least not for what we use them for ...

Martin Hone

It looks good. But, I notice in it's list of features air conditioning is conspicuously absent. In Australia you NEED air conditioning.


This LOOKS great! But as others have asked—is this just another 'concept'?

Also, the range and speed are definitely an issue.

Like to see a combustion engine version that would address the range and speed issue, and know what the price would be.


I don't see anything particularly world-rocking in this. It's just another concept car, one of many hundreds we've seen over the years and most of which never enter production. If Toyota had announced that they were starting full production and a marketing push in a few months, THAT would "rock the automotive world."


Well,my daily commute is around 15km each way, my modified F650CS uses 4.2 L/100kms(70 mpg)...but if when I go to my parents place it's 1060kms(Melbourne to Newcastle Australia). I can do that in a days ride,I don't think the Toyota will. And there's that wind in the face factor.....That thing may be able to find a niche market,but it's not a revolution yet Gra


I think there's probably enough roof space to put 30-40 watts of photovoltaic panel there. It certainly isn't enough to run the vehicle on its own, but, particularly in Australia, if you drive somewhere and park for an hour or two in the sun, that might add a couple of extra km or so to the range. And if, as also happens you get stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway and don't fancy trying to lane split, (many car drivers think that's "unfair" somehow), at least you'll be able to generate enough power to run a small fan, and keep yourself cool, maybe with a small Peltier device, without reducing your range.

And perhaps each seat could have a retractable pedal powered generator underneath so each occupant could add a bit of power to the battery while stuck in traffic, instead of just looking at the scenery. On my own pedal generator 75 watts (at 12 volts) is not a problem.


Slowburn, you are fantastic. I can't recall a single post from you which doesn't conform to the following structure:

Ignore any real or potential advantages Point out all the obvious disadvantages Dismiss the entire development as folly

You entertain me anyhow, but I'd be interested to see your intelligence, wit and imagination used to challenge others to think about what might be possible, rather than what isn't.

Russ Pinney

Sir Clive Sinclair must have a belly laugh when he sees these concepts.

The C5 sold for £399 in 1984, which even with inflation will be way less than this concept. And then there is range...Even with its frankly rubbish battery the C5 sported a 20 mile range and had pedals as a back up. Top speed was 24 mph (although a heavily modified one clocked 150 mph).

So in 29 years Toyota have managed to extend the range of a personal electric vehicle by 10 miles and raise its speed by 4 mph. #Awesome

John Laity

So many companies came up with tilting vehicle concepts: VandenBrink, Nissan, KTM, Naro Car Co. Actually, they are all flawed. They are either unappealing geriatric-looking 'creatures' from a product design point of view and/or unsafe for the passengers if you compare them to small cars. About time someone came up with a true successor to that almost forgotten transportation mode from the Fifties the Germans brought us in the form of the Isetta, Heinkel and Messerschmitt.


It also needs a nice electronic engine sound, to alert pedestrians and entertain the driver, like SoundRacer EVEESS

Kenneth Palmestål

Shame you didn't link to the brilliant video, which makes the i-Road look far more enticing than mere words and static shots. The question is, how long before Toyota can make the CGI video into reality, and at what price? I'm willing to bet that they can make it happen a lot quicker than Lit Motors with their 'pie-in-the-sky, crawl-on-the-ground' C1 gyro thang. Also, you yanks need to appreciate that the 28mph top speed makes it 'moped legal' throughout the European Union, which means you can drive it at 16 instead of 18, on a much easier-to-acquire licence. I'm sure Toyota will have a much faster version in development too, but of course that will also require a lot more battery space. Meanwhile, as I've said before, you can TODAY buy a Peraves MTE-150 electric Monotracer which will exceed 150mph and cruise at 75mph for 200 miles.....if you can afford it, AND master the required motorcycle driving technique (as I have – I just ain't got the moolah to buy one!) PNB


I like the trend, it is about time that we realize that we don't need to take 2 tons of steel to work and back everyday.

But, I would rather go for the X-tracer (monotracer) if I had a choice. Its range is at least 150 miles, with a healthy top speed as well. And it has been proven. Pitty about the price though. :-(


Soon enough the new nanocapacitor energy storage technologies will replace Li technologies and yield much greater distances for lighter overall drive train wieghts fo all electrics, and reduce charging times as well. Manufacturers are well apparaised on this and will graduste toward it until it is perfected. America of course will never relinquish the 19th century gasoline engined rubber wheeled technologies as they have become part of the very identity of the nation and cars like the mustang, Oldsmoblie, Pontiac, Corvette, will live in well beyond the demise of that nation, even still persist after the Asian Empire reaches maturity. Even as Diesel Honda's ply the streets of the Pan Eurasian Alliance countries, America, land of the "Land Yachets" will have Cadillacs with V-8 gasoline power, Lincolns the same, and even Oldsmobiles with Straight Eight gasoline power!

Bruce Miller

The price, if $25K, and limitation of 30 miles per charge and less than 30 mph limits the market for this thing.

A great idea would be a hybrid version that includes a small gasoline engine for increase range and speed as well as an eventual price of $15K.

And, oh yes, you need the gas engine anyways, since you're going to want air conditioning.

Peter Davila

In an urban environment this may work well. My commute is only 4 miles each way, but the airports I use regularly are 35/47/75 miles away. I would prefer it have a hybrid powerplant for range and velocity.

Bruce H. Anderson

This looks very similar to the Renault Twizy. The Twizy is 30cm wider, but also has a second seat. It shares the same 28mph top speed for the same reason, and quotes a 'worst case' range of 30 miles, though should supposedly average 50. I really don't get the objections to this speed limit - it's more than double the average speed in pretty much every major European city (it's 10mph in London, according to TFL), so going any quicker is a waste of capacity and adds extra weight and cost. The comment about 100cc scooters is misleading - 16-year-olds can't ride scooters that big, but could drive these. The Twizy has been available for a year and costs about £7k, so I'm surprised that this newer, smaller, lighter design should be more expensive and have shorter range. The Monotracer is very nice, but pointless for a city vehicle - it's bigger, more expensive, harder to drive and 250Kg heavier than the i-ROAD, and why have a 300 km range when a commute is very rarely going to be that long or have any need for such speeds? Do you take a suitcase to carry your lunch? According to the US Census bureau, over 90% of commutes are under an hour, with the average being 25 minutes, which is likely to be within the capabilities of a vehicle like this. Objecting to it on the grounds that it won't drive 12 of your fat friends to the south pole and back on a single charge is missing the point.


With the real estate and auto and tire and oil industries having designed our cities and transportation to maximize their profits so effectively in the United States this type of vehicle will have limited application. In the remainder of the industrialized world where transportation systems are designed by the government for maximum efficiency this car is a valuable addition. Commuters only need to get from their car to a high speed train station where they will be whisked away to their destination at 200 MPH speeds. In the USA we are trapped inside our vehicles with average commute speeds of less than 30 MPH and our trains are not any faster than they were 80 years ago. One needs to go outside the US to see how transportation is done when greedy businessmen and their lacky politicians don't call the shots.



Enjoyed reading about the i-Road. However, this type of transport won't "rock" Californians for many reasons unless it's on the roads of retirement communities. I'll take a modern muscle car or sleek, Italian sports car any day, though. :-)

Marco Corona

@Bruce Miller, you obviously either don't live here or don't live in California. There are more hybrid and electric vehicales on the roads than ever before. If a technology is viable and can accomplish the mission, we will adapt to it.

However, this thing is just a toy and would never support the kind of driving I must do. I travel 100 miles a day round trip to and from work - with no place to plug in at either end. I am a rider, anyway, and would never consider this thing to replace any of my motorcyles.

But for some this might be a fine option - especially environments where space is at a premium and I applaud The forward thinking. I suspect this vehicle is going to be expensive, though, which will make it unattainable for most. Which, when you think about it, is pretty dumb. We'll see when/if it comes to market.


Showing it is one thing, but actually offering it is another. We are always being tempted by these promising new vehicles that never materialize. I would certainly go out and buy one, but will probably never see it in a showroom. So if you are going to build a concept car that you are never going to produce you are wasting your time and mine.


re; Russ Pinney

The advantages of an electric vehicle. 1. Cost? The ICE including full emission control costs less. 2. Range? The ICE wins hands down. 3. Emissions? ICE including full emission control or electrical generation over all the advantage goes to the ICE with notable exceptions. 4. Energy availability? The electrical grids are already over-strained and the generating capacity is going up slower than the demand. 5. Convenience? Planing my travels around real electric vehicle ranges and charge times fails completely against refueling an ICE. 6. Smug? EV wins hands down.


I'd like it better if it had room for me to carry my wheelchair so I could use it to get somewhere and actually get out and enjoy my self once there!

Layne Nelson

This would suit some people, you could have that folding wheelchair in place of second seat!

For me it would not be convenient as I live off grid in my camper van. I have not got enough solar panels to charge this and it would not fit into my van.

I like this reverse trike car concept as I have invented something similar. First take out the motor, seat and cover. Reduce wheel size to 12" on front and 8" on the back. Remove leaning as in my scooter the rider stands up and leans. Basically it is a 3-wheel kick scooter which weighs just 12 Kg or 26lb for metrically challenged. I had to find a converter for the weight but for some reason I understand wheel sizes in imperial measurements?

Haykey Kaariainen

If it's priced at US$25K- for about US$10K I can get a 5-7 year old Buick. The difference in price would buy enough gasoline to drive 88,000 miles, and I wouldn't have to recharge every 30 miles.

William Lanteigne

I agree in principle that it's absurd that I have to use a 3200 lb car to haul my 200 lb carcass to and from work every day, but as I noted above, I can buy a lot of gasoline for the difference in price between the i-Road and a used luxury car. There is obviously a need for an efficient highway commuter vehicle. Motorcycles used to be much more efficient than cars, but that advantage has dwindled (several cars now on the US market are rated 40+ mpg).

On the other hand, my place of employment is 22 miles away, and my employer isn't going to be providing charging stations for any of their 500 employees as long as they can hire warm bodies off the street for $9/hour to fill the seats and not have to spend a nickel on amenities.

I have a 200cc motor scooter, and I have driven it to work, but not in the rain or snow, and I shudder at the thought of hitting a deer at speed when I'm driving home at midnight (I've had some close calls in my Buick).

Ditch the EV drivtrain and replace it with a 20 hp ICE and it will still be a great product, without the EV limitations, and a lot safer in a vehicle/deer crash than a motorcycle.

William Lanteigne

There are dozens of vehicles that have electric drive trains, short ranges and low top speeds. None have been commercially successful in America. The crux of the issue is that even if your commute is less than 10 miles, chances are that part (usually more than half) of it will be on a major 65MPH freeway.

We desperately need a fully enclosed, freeway capable, narrow track 1-2 person vehicle for around $10K. I think this is easily possible with an ICE - and could kick-start the transportation revolution everyone is talking about. Sure, you're burning gas - but at 80MPG plus, you are burning 25% as much as you used to - with no sacrifices in range and comfort.

Slow and expensive electric vehicles will not have the mass market appeal, and thus will not have a significant impact.

James Bronson

I think having a fuel cell from either Intelligent Energy or Horizon Fuel cells would help the range of the vehicle; IMO. http://www.horizonfuelcell.com/automotive.htm http://www.intelligent-energy.com/automotive or other companies developing fuel cells for vehicles. (one has a fuel cell for airplanes).


Ok the tilting mechanism is cool, but sort of too similar to Nissan's Landlglider to be original, only 3 wheels instead of 4.

Why not make it available in a hybrid format? And where is BMW, the creator of the Isetta of the 50s and 60s? Honda has the Gyro 3 wheeled motorbike with a roof, why not refine that and make it more comfortable? There is also the Dutch Drymer, which allows you to pedal as well as tilt and bank. The bottom line is people like to travel in heavy steel boxes that put distance between them and others, the bigger the box, the better. And it has got to have HUNDREDS of horsepower, mind, or it is no good.



Can't argue with you. I can't see ICE being displaced by EV any time soon. And the current obsession with electric & so-called 'renewables' is a dangerous distraction.

That being said, it is still interesting to see a big player in motor vehicles putting some thinking into alternatives. Electric scooters have really taken off here in Amsterdam and as far as I know this is not being driven by subsidies. EV has a place.

Russ Pinney

Outstanding idea for an enclosed, all-weather, all-season, commuter vehicle; and yes, very good CGI, not REAL vehicles. Too bad Toyota could not take the time, effort, and resources to actually make and film REAL vehicles in everyday situations. Especially, the i-Road's unique features of being able to lane-split in congested city traffic, using HOV lanes on freeways, and keeping the driver/passenger DRY and COMFORTABLE in rainy and snowy weather! Too bad the Top Speed is only 28mph and Range of 30 miles; if they could go 50-70 mph and have a range of 100 miles (at a reasonable price).... they could RULE the commuter vehicle World!


Brilliant concept, easy fixes. Piss off the battery electric bullshit, offer a couple of efficient petrol engines, the smallest one similar performance but with a usable range, the larger one suitable for highway use. Air conditioning, seriously? KISS - Sliding roof (and windows?). Keep it simple - it will keep the weight down and keep it cheap. Fixed.

Mark Goninon

Too small for me to feel safe in it. but I do see these three wheeled vehicle making their way into homes. Most likely inner city home owners will buy small vehicles like this, just for parking advantages, but they don't look like something you would take on a long haul.


I'll be happy to buy one of these in a couple years when the price has become reasonable. Powered by solar panels on my house, just the right range, more or less fast enough for getting to my main job in the next town over the hill, and looks fun - perfect second car.


This makes perfect moped replacement since toyota does not want to replace cars with it. I calculated out that it is 200mpg equivalent.

Raven Bo

I don't get it - if I buy an electric vehicle today, of any type and size and live in an appartment block with no private road-level eletrical connection possibility - how do I use it the next day??? I drive home just before the battery is empty and then it sits thier out on the road 300m from my appartment and how does the battery get charged?

There are a handfull of public charging points here in Berlin - none of them near my home and no way enough to meet the need.

This whole thing of electrical vehicles is BS - for the vast majority of folks in Germany at least - who live in appartments you might as well try sellung us personal space rockets as a means of transport!


Ronald Bartle

Cray super computers, computational 3-diamentional modeling, PHD design. All to produce the slowest, most crappiest looking car I have ever seen. So all we need is a few hundred thousand of these on the road and it will look just like India here. I would much rather have a Volkswagen XL1.

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