Tokyo residents will be given the opportunity to move around town in Toyota’s three-wheeled electric car starting this week, in an experiment with a business model that might contribute to reduced pollution and traffic.
The world’s largest carmaker has announced its partnership with Japanese car-sharing service operator Park24 for a six-month trial in which it would lease the i-Road concept model, in an attempt to establish a competing business model to Daimler AG’s car2go service. The smallish i-Road has two front wheels that can travel up and down independently of each other, allowing the three-wheeler to mirror motorbike traits while keeping the stability of a normal car. The experiment also comes even before Toyota makes a decision on whether to introduce a production model of the concept. “Our concept was to offer something that’s both fun and convenient for city driving,” commented -Road chief engineer Akihiro Yanaka.
The auto industry is currently increasingly turning to the so-called “smart mobility”, as the segment could become a new battleground between automakers – urbanization is on the rise, together with pollution and traffic jams – especially in emerging markets. Germany’s Daimler has already jumped on the bandwagon with its car2go car-sharing service that has already soared to more than one million members in 30 European and North American towns. They use their smartphones to reserve Smart models, many of them in electric form, and hen they pay by the minute and can leave the car once they’re done in numerous places around the city.