THE TOKYO MOTOR Show (through Dec. 1) unfailingly offers the most outlandish concept cars on the auto-show calendar, whimsical mobile-bots that would never in a million years be built. The i-Road isn’t one of them.
Toyota 7203.TO -0.16% is producing the first of hundreds of these all-electric tandem-seat three wheelers and will be setting them loose, for example, in the streets of Grenoble, France, next year as part of an urban car-sharing experiment called Ha:Mo (that is short for Harmonious Mobility).
The Toyota i-Road is one of several highly evolved, micro-commuter EV prototypes that Japanese auto makers featured at the Tokyo show this year, and it is a fair example of their anxieties. If current trends hold, the megacities of Asia and South America will be asked to absorb tens of millions more cars and trucks in the next decade. Various species of smaller-than cars, in two-, three- and four-wheeled morphologies, will have to evolve to fit where the conventional automobile won’t.
The three-wheeled i-Road is narrow and tall. Toyota notes it is only as wide as a large motorcycle, and four can fit in the parking space required for a Camry. The driver seating is monoposto, like a single-seat race car or an enclosed scooter. A passenger seat has been wedged behind the driver, but it is best thought of as a parcel shelf.