By Lisa Drummond
If the mere thought of parallel parking sends you into a panic, meet your new best friend: the Hiriko Fold automobile, sure to make parking — any time, any place — a cinch.
Created by the Hiriko Driving Mobility consortium in the Basque region of Spain and introduced in early 2012, the Hiriko Fold prototype is a two-seater, all-electric roadster that shrinks from 98.4 to 59.1 inches for convenient, painless parking. Designed with a hinged body, the Fold morphs from a semi-circular configuration to something akin to a vertical egg shape by contracting the front and rear modules. Three Hiriko Folds can be parked side-by-side in a typical one-car parking space with room to spare. And with wheels that turn 60 degrees right or left, the Fold easily travels sideways and can even spin on its central axis.
The name Hiriko — derived from the Basque word for “urban” — is fitting for a vehicle created to help solve urban transportation challenges. Its design is intended to make mobility more sustainable and accessible through a solid understanding of the relationship between a city, its people and their vehicles.
The concept of the urban electric car was conceived in 2003 by the late William J. Mitchell and his Smart Cities Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. In 2010, commercial development began at the science park of Alava, Basque Country, by Hiriko Driving Mobility, MIT and the Spanish government.
The Fold weighs less than 1,100 pounds and has no doors. Instead, the driver and passenger enter and exit through a front hatch, which houses the windshield and flips upward. The steering wheel, brake and throttle controls are similar to the yoke of an airplane. To increase speed the driver pushes the yoke forward, pulling it back to slow down. Turns are executed by moving the yoke left or right, directing the four wheels, each housing an electronically controlled drive motor. The car is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack located on the vehicle’s floor, which powers a travel range of 75 miles at a top speed of 31 mph.
When can you expect to come face to face with this folding marvel? It is scheduled to go on sale this year for approximately $16,400 in Barcelona, Berlin and San Francisco. But until the Hiriko Fold hits your neighborhood showroom floor, you just might want to keep working on those parallel parking skills.