The experience of inhaling acrid black smoke and noxious gases emitted from the tailpipes of automobile or truck gasoline engines may soon be a distant memory. And it may not be too far-fetched to anticipate that parking problems in major metropolitan areas will soon be mitigated by small, smart electric cars available to the masses.
Rising oil prices coupled with advances in battery technology are fueling global innovation in the electric car sector from Boston to Tokyo and Mumbai to Beijing where Steve Jobs types toil away in garages dreaming of saving the world from global warming and endless lifetimes wasted in traffic jams.
The Hiriko, meaning “urban” in Basque, was originally developed at MIT’s Media Lab as CityCar, an offshoot of the Smart Cities Research Group. The vehicle has been under development since 2003 with the help of General Motors. A test version of the car is now being produced by Hiriko Driving Mobility, a Spanish consortium. Test driving began in Spain in July 2012 and will soon spread to other cities around the globe, including Boston.”Hiriko’s” length has been compacted into the width of a standard automobile allowing four Hirikos to fit into one traditional parking space. It’s robotic wheels, which turn up to 180 degrees, allow a Hiriko to be easily maneuvered into tight parking spots, and the car can be parked head on to the curb rather than alongside it. Passengers comfortably exit the vehicle from the back end.
The central technology of the Hiriko is its robot wheels. Integrated into the wheels are the driving motors, steering actuation, a suspension system and breaking. The power and control of the vehicle is placed in the corners of the vehicle and managed by a digital system.
Cities are planning to locate fleets of these Hirikos at shopping centers, hotels, airports, subway stations and well populated neighborhoods where they will be rented by the hour, allowing you to run errands and drop off the car at another convenient location.
When the Hiriko is sold directly to the public, its price is projected to be about $17,500.