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PHOTO CAPTION: Toyota i-Road could be a great urban commuter.

Test Driving Toyota's i-Road Electric Vehicle

Joshua Topolsky checks out the three-wheeled electric vehicle designed to bridge the gap between motorcycles and automobiles.

Published: 07-Jan-2014

First introduced at last year's Geneva Auto Show, Toyota's bizarre i-Road doesn't seem like the kind of car that could ever make the leap from a rotating platform on a well-lit stage to the street. In fact, calling it a "car" seems like a stretch: it's more like a transportation pod beamed straight from the future, a narrow, electric, three-wheeled hauler that automatically leans itself sharply into turns. It seats just one — two, if you're working with particularly diminutive humans — and tops out at around 28 miles per hour. It does just 30 miles on a single charge.

And yet Toyota announced later in 2013 that it would be putting the i-Road into car-sharing trials in Japan and France. What's the appeal?

"It takes the compactness of a motorcycle and the stability and convenience of an automobile," says Toyota's Akihiro Yanaka, noting that the i-Road's ultra-narrow body and relatively slow speed mean that it could be driven in bike lanes (some municipalities may disagree, but it's an interesting thought). And in some ways it's more of a faster, safer, more comfortable bicycle alternative than a tiny car, an ultra-efficient way to get around in dense, urban areas.

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