Electric city cars are not a new concept, but in aiming vehicles at a city environment it can side-step many of the issues normally associated with EVs, such as short range and high pricing.
Those issues are even less likely with the Hiriko electric car, which is designed to fill the "first and last mile" problems.
"First mile" refers to the distance between an individual's home and the start of a mass transit system, and "last mile" is the other end--between getting off the bus, train or tube, and reaching your workplace.
For those who use mass transit, this can sometimes result in an inconveniently long walk, so that's where the Hiriko comes in.
As The New York Times reports, the Hiriko is designed for short-distance car sharing schemes, allowing people to cover those first and last miles, using clean electric power. It provides an alternative for car-pooling, bicycle-sharing, shuttle buses and other transport solutions, and is an attractive option for those who don't want to sacrifice the comfort and personal space of private cars.
We've featured Hiriko before on GreenCarReports, but the project has now moved beyond the computer-generated stage to a small production run. This will allow a team including M.I.T, the Spanish government, and a consortium of Basque auto parts suppliers, to test the car's features for real.
Three versions will be available, Fold, Alai (convertible) and Laga (pickup). The Fold's party piece is its ability to effectively fold in half. That means a larger footprint when driving around, improving handling, ride and stability, with the ability to reduce from eight feet to five feet long to park in tiny spaces.
Each of its wheels also turn 60 degrees left or right, allowing it to turn in tiny spaces, making parking a cinch.
Range is around 75 miles, and the four in-wheel electric motors put out a total of 20 horsepower. Top speed is 31mph. To put all that into perspective, our current favorite electric city car, the Renault Twizy, develops 17 horsepower, reaches 50 mph, and has a range of roughly 50 miles.
Hiriko is sticking to its early price estimate of just over $16,000, but rather than selling to individuals, the company expects to sell to municipalities. First on the list are Barcelona, Berlin and San Francisco--and sales are expected to start in 2013.
Would you use a Hiriko Fold for short journeys? Let us know in the comments section below.