SMART FORTWO OUT OF CAR-SHARING TEST: It will be happening this weekend in Tokyo with this Smart car being replaced by a three-wheeler. (Apr 5-7)
TOKYO, Japan - Tokyoites will be able to zip around town on Toyota's three-wheeled electric cartorbike from April 10 2015 during a trial intended to create a global business model to reduce gridlock and ease pollution.
The world's top-selling automaker will partner Japanese car-sharing service operator Park24 during a six-month leasing experiment with the -Road concept vehicle. The idea is to set up a green car-sharing business similar to Daimler's car2go service.
'FUN AND CONVENIENT'
The pint-sized i-Road has two front wheels that move up and down independently of each other, allowing the machine to be leaned like a motorcycle yet retain the stability of a car.
Toyota has not yet decided whether to mass-produce it.
i-Road chief engineer Akihiro Yanaka told Reuters: "Our concept was to offer something that's not only fun but also convenient for city driving."
Devising smarter ways to get around - known in the industry as "smart mobility" - could become a new battleground for automakers in emerging markets as urbanisation spreads, pollution worsens, and more cars clog up cities .
Germany's Daimler has taken the lead with car2go, where its million-plus members in 30 European and North American cities use a mobile app to reserve the tiny Smart ForTwo car, many of have zero emissions. Drivers pay by the minute and leave the car at any of a number of places in a city.
EXPERIMENTS UNDER WAY
Ford announced in January that the Ford Smart Mobility initiative would involve various types of trials around the world, including a car-sharing service in London.
Toyota also has car-sharing experiments under way in its namesake city as well as in France's Grenoble but Tokyo would be its first in a metropolis, which it says would benefit most from the i-Road.
Toshiya Hayata, group manager of Toyota's Smart Community department, explained: "Data shows that about 70% of cars in big cities are occupied by one person travelling less than 10km. That means the mode of transportation doesn't have to be a car."
In the upcoming trial, users will be able to lease one of five i-Roads from the upmarket Ginza shopping district for the equivalent of about R35/15 minutes, dropping it off at any of five spots in the capital.
COSTS MUST BE SLASHED
Toyota, to turn the trial into a viable business, said it would need to slash costs both for the i-Road and for operating a car-share network.
"But Daimler doesn't have anything smaller than the Smart," Yanaka said. "If we can make it work, the i-Road could have an advantage."