02 April 2013

Earth Rovers

Written by Published in Technology







Watch any blockbuster movie set in the future and you will no doubt see some kind of flying contraption making a bizarre whirring sound, doors coming out at every angle possible and a driver’s seat resembling the cockpit of a Boeing 747 with flashing lights and buttons galore

Well, the next generation of mobility vehicles have arrived and although they may not be airborne they are not too far away from the elaborate ideas that Hollywood foresaw. Strange doors? Check. Strange sound? Check. Flashing lights and buttons everywhere? Not really, but one of them tilts when you turn so that makes up for it. We can forgive the moviemakers for not getting it completely correct; it’s a tall order to predict the future after all!

These mobility vehicles are designed for short journeys, such as commuting to work, and in recent years they have become increasingly popular. We look at three models produced by automotive giants Nissan, Renault and Toyota.

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First up is the Renault Twizy. This two seat, four-wheel vehicle is yours for £6,795 but on top of this you have to rent the battery which can be acquired through installments of £45 a month for 36 months. The newest version was released in its native France in March 2012 and the rest of Europe a month later. It has a range of roughly 50 miles and a top speed of 50 mph allowing it to keep pace with urban traffic. It has no windows and the scissor doors can be removed if desired.

 

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Next is the Nissan New Mobility Concept and it is remarkably similar to the Renault Twizy. This is no surprise as the two companies have been strategic partners since 1999, selling 8.1 million cars worldwide in 2012. It’s essentially the same product being released to the Japanese market and is on sale for the same price.

 

Toyota i-road

 

The prize for the most inventive goes to Toyota for their i-Road which, like the Twizy and New Mobility Concept, is powered by battery and sits two people. However, the i-Road only has three wheels allowing it to tilt when turning which makes the driver feel like they are leading the MotoGP at Silverstone. The tilt is to lower the center of gravity and is based on the steering angle, gyro sensor and speed. It’s powered by a 2kW electric motor meaning it isn’t the quickest and can only go for 30 miles before it needs to be plugged in again and charged for three hours.

Unlike the Nissan and Renault machines the Toyota is completely enclosed which allows it to benefit from heating, a stereo system and Bluetooth although of course all these appliances draw power.

All these vehicles will turn heads, particularly the Toyota, and are environmentally friendly. While completely unpractical for long journeys due to their speed they’re perfect for short journeys and I can’t think of anything better for a commute. Maybe a hover board… but they’re just a Hollywood fantasy.

 

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