Toyota i-Road not just a crazy concept: you can rent one

Toyota has announced the introduction of the i-Road personal mobility concept to the “Ha:mo” urban transport system trials in Japan. The concept, which made its début at 2012 Geneva motor show, will be used alongside existing Toyota COMS personal mobility vehicles from early 2014.

In other words: this is more than a crazy concept, it’s actually going to be in use in Japan. Users will be able to rent and return vehicles at 17 new locations from October, an increase from the four currently in operation.

Much like the Nissan Zero Emission concept, this is a vehicle which fills a niche that currently doesn’t really exist: another manufacturer using the electric vehicle revolution to re-invent personal transport?

The overall concept of e-mobility makes a great deal of sense – long-term it’s not enough to replace combustion vehicles with EVs and ULEVs, we should be looking at personal transport from the ground up, and using technology to connect all modes of transport and reduce our overall energy consumption at every stage. But I’m still not convinced that niche, impractical little vehicles like these are where the OEMs need to be focussing their efforts right now.

Trying to engage the public towards EVs as a replacement for current personal transport requirements may be a better use of marketing budget, and R&D budgets for that matter: addressing range anxiety and prices.

I say impractical, because these tiny cars have limited (or no) luggage space, can only carry two people, and despite diminutive size, still can only use one designated parking bay. The Toyota i-ROAD appears even less useful than the Nissan concept, with a mere 30 mile range.

But let’s see – the point of the “Ha:mo” project is to test the concept, to engage with the public and to collect data. It’s a worthy project and perhaps in Japan it will prove successful. In Europe and the US, I think it’s a way off, not least because of the cost.

From Toyota:

“Ha:mo” is an urban transport system designed to combine all forms of public and private transport with the aim of improving traffic flow and minimising emissions. The system uses electric vehicle car sharing and traffic routing information to ensure the most appropriate form of transportation is used by travellers.

This is a trials of a fee-based sharing service: From October 1, a fee system will be introduced to the commercial feasibility of the sharing service. Fees will start at 200 yen (around £1.30) for the first 10 minutes and 20 yen (around £0.13) per minute thereafter. “Ha:mo” membership is projected to rise from 100 to 1,000 in October, improving the level of data being received from the trial.

For more information on the i-Road concept, please click here.
For further information on Ha:mo please click here.

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