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Tokyo trial for Toyota cartorbike trike

2015-04-09 11:26

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."

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