Toyota starts i-Road trials

March 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

toyota i-road 2Public trials of the Toyota i-Road have started this week in Tokyo: 10 of these electric three-wheelers are now on the road, shared between 20 people, and Toyota will be collecting feedback from these real-life consumers/commuters “on what i-Road is like to drive, how easy it is to use around town, how it affects people’s decisions about what journeys to make and driver satisfaction”. A sort of scooter-microcar crossover with gyroscopic ‘leaning’, the i-Road is also in action in Toyota’s Ha:mo pilot car-share/multimodal project, and it’s to be used in an EV-share programme in Grenoble, France, from later this year.

And a general news catch-up:

  • An interesting engine concept: a ‘self-supercharging’ single-cylinder 400cc unit from Oaktec, developed with use as an EV range-extender in mind. Based on a Yamaha diesel but said to potentially be 30% more powerful and economical, it mimics forced induction thanks to modified ‘breathing’ through its architecture, and can run on propane, petrol, diesel, bioethanol and biomethane. It’s simple, cheap, and could also be used as a generator for domestic electricity in developing regions, as well as to power light aircraft, tuk-tuks or other vehicles, reports Autocar. And its tech can also be scaled up for multi-cylinder applications.
  • Toyota and BMW are pooling resources – and Toyota’s Le Mans-developed hybrid-drive tech – for the ‘new Supra’ and new Z4, reports Autocar. The two cars (plug-in hybrids) will be co-developed, sharing their supercapacitor-powered KERS, BMW 2.0-litre engine and electric motors, plus four-wheel drive, a steel/aluminium platform, CFRP bodyshell and Toyota’s control electronics. This’ll be the first full-production application of supercapacitors, said to offer quicker charge/discharge than lithium-ion batteries and to be smaller and lighter.
  • Solid-state lithium-ion batteries – ‘printed’ onto a thin film, rather than containing electrolyte – could be in production within two years, claims Ann Arbor-based Sakti3, making examples said to be half the cost and half the weight of standard Li-ion batteries but with double the energy density. Interview, more details here.
  • Volvo Cars, the Swedish Transport Administration and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration are teaming up on a cloud-based system sharing real-time data on road conditions. Vehicles and roads administrators will be warned of slippery or icy patches nearby; a test fleet of 50 cars is hitting the road, with more to join the trial next winter and a view to commercial availability of the system within a few years.
  • Recent report from the EC Joint Research Centre: CO2 emissions from urban transport could be reduced by 8.8% in 2030 through the introduction of (more) congestion charging, more tele-working/conference-calling, and the allocation of road lanes to public transport – the top 3 recommended measures out of 21. (Am I being hopelessly naive in suggesting that surely we can do better than 8.8%)? Report here, anyway.
  • George Monbiot’s sounding a warning about growing crops (maize) for biogas – let’s add that to the concerns over fracking for natural gas. There’s some good reasons to get enthusiastic about biogas and indeed, natural gas itself (more to follow on this at some point) but as GM points out, incentives to make it from biowastes (ie via anerobic digestion) are going to have to be offered to lessen the environmental  (and social) side-effects and move the industry away from growing crops for fuel.
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