MIT's city car concept has been in the pipeline for a long time, but until now there's been nothing other than illustrations and half-size models. The real thing is here, and it's about to go into testing in Europe.
Called Hiriko, which means "from the city" in Basque, MIT's folding electric car was unveiled in front of the European Union Commission chief in Brussels this week.
The car isn't designed to be a Smart competitor -- it's a bit cleverer than that. It folds in the middle to minimise the amount of room it takes up, and three of the vehicles can fit in a typical parking spot once folded.
Making a car that folds throws up some problems. As a result, the Hiriko has an upward-swinging windshield instead of doors, and each of its wheels have dedicated drive motors, steering, braking and suspension to maintain space in the cabin. Those wheels mean it can turn on the spot too.
The model that's going into testing has a 96km range, and although at some point in the future it may be sold to individuals, the current model that MIT plans to roll out is based on sharing. Much like shared-bicycle projects popping up in plenty of big cities, these cars could be used for short periods of time by anyone signed up to the scheme. The eventual target cost is $US12,500.
The first test project aims to kick off by 2013 in Vitoria Gasteiz near Bilbao, Spain, where 20 cars will be available. Apparently San Francisco, Berlin, Barcelona, Malmö and Hong Kong have all shown interest in the scheme, too, but there's no word on when it will spread to other cities. [The Verge, Engadget, Slashdot]