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Toyota i-Tril Concept: Geneva Auto Show

What Is It?

On the face of it, the Toyota i-Tril Concept is a really small electric car. But it means much more than an emissions-free way of driving. Toyota says this is its “vision on urban mobility in 2030” and that it’s a “viable alternative” to public transport, small cars and motorcycles. This last one is an intriguing twist, because the i-Tril has the driver sitting in the one seat that’s up front, with two seats behind, and employs what Toyota calls Active Lean Technology.

There’s a hinge between the rear axle and the cabin that lets the body and front wheels lean like a motorcycle while the rear tires remain at right angles to the road. Toyota contends that with this lean angle of up to 10 degrees, it can even make driving slowly feel more like fun. Alternatively, the driver can put this car into its autonomous mode. It has a range of 124 miles.

There are no pedals. Steering, accelerating and braking are all accomplished using hand-operated left and right “control nodes.” That does mean more legroom, though, plus the option of any kind of footwear. And the driver’s seat will swivel a little for more dignified entries and exits.

It remains to be seen if piloting something that behaves a little like a motorbike would sit well with what Toyota imagines is the i-Tril’s target customer — a single, sophisticated 30- to 50-year-old active female, confident in her behavior, with two children (to whom she refuses to be a servant) and a vibrant lifestyle, living in a small-to-medium-sized town. Whew, that’s pretty specific. Perhaps that kind of buyer will be more prevalent 13 years from now.

However, Toyota thinks that existing cities like London and Paris won’t expand much more, and that a growing European society will spread out among small-to-medium-sized towns. It offers the i-Tril idea as an “engaging, environmentally friendly” form of getting around.

Will They Ever Sell It?

Doubtful. But things can change, and this concept is more directed at European population centers than anywhere else.

Why It’s Important

The Toyota i-Tril Concept was designed and realized by the company’s studios in the south of France. So it shows an approach to personal transportation more tailored to specific parts of the world, as opposed to a “one size fits all” method that is the logical result of mass production. And it illustrates that Toyota is really thinking about the future, trying to anticipate what customer needs might be, and coming up with new ideas, no matter how wacky they might seem right now.

See all 2017 Geneva Auto Show articles

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More about Colin Ryan

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