A venture involving the Spanish government, some small Spanish firms and engineers from MIT may soon come to fruition. The project has yielded an interesting city car, the Hiriko, which will start production by the end of the year.
Basque to the future
According to the New York Times, the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been working on an electric city car, which had previously been called CityCar. It has been in development since before funding from General Motors was cut off and has been gestating ever since.
However, a consortium of businesses from Basque country in Spain, along with the Spanish government, got MIT to let them try to turn the experimental vehicle into a commercial vehicle instead of a research project. The result, which was recently shown off in Brussels at the European Union Commission headquarters, is called the Hiriko, the Basque word for “urban.”
Hit or fold
One of the most novel features of the Hiriko, according to Wired UK, is that the two-seat car folds when the driver parks it. There are pictures of the folding process on AutoGuide, but the mechanism is similar to a child’s stroller; the passenger “pod” section detaches from the rear wheels, which fold underneath the car, drastically reducing its total length so that three of them fit in a single traditional parking space.
There aren’t traditional doors on the Hiriko; instead of driver and passenger entering from the side, the front windscreen opens out, causing the instrument panel to pivot out of the way for occupants to climb inside.
The car is electric, powered by four in-wheel electric motors, giving it four-wheel-drive. The car is reportedly capable of up to 75 miles of driving before needing a charge. Time needed for a recharge isn’t known, but supposedly it’s fairly fast. Instead of a traditional steering wheel, it’s fitted with a joystick though The Telegraph reports it can get a steering wheel that provides “haptic” feedback.
Trials beginning soon
Right now, according to The Guardian, there are plans to sell the cars to various city governments or private companies to be used in car-sharing programs like Zipcar. Whether it will end up being sold at dealerships is unknown, but the New York Times reports the consortium of Basque companies behind the car, Denokinn, projects a price of $16,400.
A trial run of 20 cars and urban testing is set to be off the ground by next year in Victoria-Gasteiz, in the Basque region of Spain near Bilbao. Trials in other cities are due in 2013 as well. The city of Malmo, Sweden, is said to be first, followed by proposed trials in Barcelona, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Boston and Berlin.