Road Talk

What I’d rather ride come Christmas ‘carmageddon’

Toyota’s i-Road

Toyota’s i-Road

If you ask many car enthusiasts what their dream cars are, they would most likely mouth off the names and specs of the flashiest, fastest, the strongest, most bad-ass cars, trucks or SUVs ever made.

Those would all be great choices, no doubt. But there’s just one problem—and it’s that one excruciating problem that befalls us Pinoy motorists every year, without fail, during that one long period by the tail end of the year, during when we all should be joyous and generous.

This Christmas season, the weary urban motorist will be bracing for the maddening holiday traffic jams.

The twinkling of lights on Christmas trees are replaced by the angry red brake lights of a sea of cars. The streets are at a standstill, our patience stretched thin, and that ride you’re on—dream car or otherwise—might as well have been placed in a transparent box and put on display on a shelf.

In the holiday “carmageddon,” that’s what all cars would seem to be worth: merely a sight to behold, but nowhere to go.

That’s why my dream cars for the Christmas season may not necessarily be the strongest nor the boldest, but those that surely will make short work of the traffic. They’ll get me where I really need to be in the shortest time possible.

I was able to drive the three-wheeled electric vehicle Toyota i-Road two years ago in Japan, and I immediately loved it, not just because it looked so unique, but also for the possibilities it opened up as a personal urban transport.

This EV is powered by lithium-ion batteries and can travel for about 50 km on one charge.

For the everyday city commute, this is a dream ride. It stylishly blurs the line between the motorbike and the compact car, but clearly retains all the scooting fun of the former.

Its “active lean” technology won’t let the rider tip over to the side when negotiating turns.

The left and right front wheels move up and down independently, synchronized in response to the driver’s steering.

The vehicle automatically selects the optimal lean angle when cornering. You can enjoy the refreshing sense of being one with the machine.

It felt as easy to use as a motorbike, but without fear of getting wet in rain, and there’s no need to wear a helmet. Since the vehicle itself maintains balance, stability is assured not only on curves, but on slopes and uneven surfaces.

Toyota Global said that the i-Road combines the potential of both cars and motorbikes. The ultra compact i-Road is a mere 870 mm wide, and easy to squeeze in and out of confined spaces.

It can run without using the entire lane on crowded urban roads, and it only needs the parking space of a quarter of that of a normal car.

I was also able to sit behind the wheel of Nissan’s sleek ultra-compact electric four-wheel vehicle sold as Twizy by the carmaker’s partner Renault.

As part of Nissan’s EV sharing service initiative in Yokohama called Choimobi Yokohama, the round-trip service on the Twizy is meant to promote ultra-compact mobility, and build a sustainable business model through public-private cooperation.

According to Smart Cities World, the initiative encourages low-emission transport options, improves the quality of transportation, and promotes tourism.

In October 2015, the Twizys were rented out to local tour operators. This thing could run for a maximum of 100 km on a single charge, with a charging time of about 4 hours.

My third, but not the least, dream ride would be a recumbent tricycle. Yes, I would ditch all other artificially powered contraptions and go on the universe’s most wonderful internal combustion engine—the human body—if only I could get a hold of a recumbent trike.

I first saw one in the flesh a decade ago when I joined the Tour of the Fireflies bike advocacy run around Metro Manila.

I was on a conventional mountain bike, and I felt perfectly fine. But when this foreigner came zipping along on his recumbent trike and passed me like it was nothing, I knew I had to try one of those.

If I don’t get any of these three this Christmas, I might just try dusting off my broomstick and fly off on it. The horrendous traffic is turning me into a bitchy witch, anyway.

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