Developed by Toyota Motors Europe (TME) in collaboration with the company’s ED² design studio in Nice, the new i-TRIL Concept showcases numerous innovative aspects of Toyota’s research into ever better and more engaging environmentally- friendly mobility solutions.
Making its world debut at the 2017 Geneva motor show, and featuring Active Lean technology, the new i-TRIL concept represents a viable alternative to A and B segment cars, other electric vehicle (EV) products, public transport and motorcycles.
Heralding a change in mindset for motorists, the i-TRIL is designed to be more than a mere commodity. Driven by Akio Toyoda’s commitment to bring passion and driving pleasure to all future Toyota vehicles, it embraces the company’s Waku Doki (a Japanese term translating as ‘Beat of the Heart’) philosophy to demonstrate that future EVs can still stimulate the senses and set the pulse racing.
A different type of transport for those who still wish to have fun whilst driving even at slow speeds in the urban environment, it represents all the best elements of future mobility beyond mere eco-friendliness.
A new SMESTO-dwelling Customer
The i-TRIL has been developed with a new type of customer in mind: a sophisticated, single, 30-50 year old active female with two children and a vibrant lifestyle. And she lives in a SMESTO (Small to Medium Sized TOwn)…
European Union studies on the future of cities have suggested that, rather than further expansion of already vast metropolitan areas such as London and Paris, the continent will witness a steady increase in growth of built-up areas adjacent to existing cities, in the manner of medium-density suburban pockets of development.
The number of such SMESTOs in Europe is already significant, and their inhabitants travel extensively to take children to school, shop, visit restaurants and socialize. As such, their sometimes difficult, stop-start mobility requirements are for small, agile and urban-friendly vehicles.
Toyota’s research with SMESTO-dwelling target customers identified an active mother often torn between “Me Time” and spending time with her children “Kids Happy”; increasingly confident in her behavior, she refuses to be a slave to those children.
The new i-TRIL Concept embraces and merges this apparent conflict of loyalties through three functions: Active Lean technology; “Relaxed Engagement”; and the unique One-plus-Two seating layout of the vehicle.
Active Lean Technology
Driven by electric motor power and weighing just 600 kilograms, the i-TRIL is some 2,830 mm long and 1,460 mm high. It features 1,200 mm front and 600 mm rear track widths, with a hinge between the rear axle and cabin allowing the vehicle body and front tires to lean while the motorized rear tires remain perpendicular to the road surface at all times.
With the front wheels and fenders clearly separated from the main bodyshell to facilitate the leaning of both the former and the latter, the cabin consists of a smooth, dark, cocoon-like central mass with no belt-line or door handles.
This is visually overlaid with a surface wrapping which undergoes a seamless transition between the body color it shares with the front wheel arches and the transparent cockpit glazing, whilst emphasizing the powerful forward movement inherent in the i-TRIL’s silhouette.
The butterfly-opening doors are hinged on the sloping A pillars to maximize the opening area and ease of cabin entry to even the rear seat passengers, whilst requiring no more opening room within a car parking space than conventional doors.
The robustness of the vehicle architecture and the added width of the rear cabin to accommodate a two-seat bench are reinforced from behind by the full-width combination lamp design above a clearly separate rear axle structure that incorporates the electric motor drive system.
Using their previous experience with Active Lean technology, Toyota’s engineers discovered that a lean angle of 10 degrees proves perfect in combining enhanced stability and grip, greater fun and driving pleasure, and less risk of passengers suffering from car sickness.
Allied to 25 degrees of front wheel steering, this technology equips the i-TRIL with a turning circle of just 4 meters (similar to that of the Toyota iQ), making it not only highly engaging to drive at even modest speeds, but also very much at home in even the most congested urban environment.
Aspiring an actual driving range of more than 200 kilometers between charges, the new Toyota concept is capable of operating autonomously, but has been specifically conceived to provide such driving pleasure that owners will wish to drive themselves for the majority of the time.
From the perspective of “Relaxed Engagement,” target customers were asked to sample a range of driving positions. They chose a slightly higher, yet relaxed and laid-back driving position -almost akin to that of a go-kart- with good engagement of the steering module.
This latter is important, because the i-TRIL has no pedals, enabling the driver to stretch out their legs in comfort, and wear whatever style of footwear they choose without risk of losing control of the vehicle. The base of the driver’s seat features a central rib to offer a snug, highly-supportive fit for the occupant’s legs.
Steering, acceleration and braking is all carried out via drive-by-wire technology. The i-TRIL is operated by left- and right-hand control nodes (in the manner of computer mice or game controllers) which extend towards the driver’s hands beneath the stretch fabric covering the manual driving module.
During autonomous driving, the left- or right-hand instrument panel extremities automatically illuminate whenever the i-TRIL is about to enter a corner, letting all occupants know which way the cabin is about to lean.
There are no other controls or switchgear, and no driver’s instrument binnacle. In manual driving mode, a simple head-up display gives the driver all the information they need. A completely new approach to the Human Machine Interface (HMI) focuses on voice activation technology, communicating with the vehicle’s Artificial Intelligence for the control of multimedia and infotainment systems.