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The Hiriko - Origami On Wheels

As many manufacturers attempt to solve car problems of emissions and congestion, the casual observer can't help but notice that nothing much is really changing. Cars are essentially the same as they always have been: a big steel box with seats inside and an internal combustion engine to provide the power to drive around.

As many manufacturers attempt to solve car problems of emissions and congestion, the casual observer can't help but notice that nothing much is really changing. Cars are essentially the same as they always have been: a big steel box with seats inside and an internal combustion engine to provide the power to drive around. Even much vaunted hybrid cars really only add a tiny electric capacity to their petrol or diesel engines and end up carrying additional heavy motors around for the privilege. With all the talk of innovation then it seems that the more that the car industry changes, the more it stays the same.
 
One company though has taken a much broader view of the future of motoring and is actively tackling the entire economic model of owning and driving a car. The Hiriko is an all electric city micro car but it has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, the Hiriko is made in the Basque Country of northern Spain (the name means 'urban' in Basque) but has its roots in the USA. 
 
The car is the result of the CityCar project from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.
 
That project has been running since 2003 and focused on solving the pressing problems of urban motoring. One of those is the difficulty in finding a parking space and the Hiriko addresses that by the neat trick of folding up. The car can park nose in on the street and then fold itself up so that it is no longer than a standard car is wide. Clearly this makes much better use of the available parking spaces. The car's electric motors are housed in the wheels and those wheels can all turn. Turned in opposing directions, the car can turn on its own axis at low speeds for incredible manoeuvrability. It also means that the car can effectively move sideways into parking spaces, making parallel parking moves simple.
 
Being electric, easy to park and amazingly manoeuvrable is only half of the Hiriko story however. The real revolution is in how drivers access the vehicle. Even the most heavily used cars tend to sit idle for 20 hours a day or more and the owners of Hiriko think they have a more efficient way to distribute car access. The approach is much like London's Boris Bike scheme where drivers simply access the Hiriko and drive it off to a different charging station at their destination. This means fewer cars are required. The scheme is certainly ground-breaking but whether the public is ready for it is another matter.

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