They aren't practical for all, but some of the ideas for future urban electric cars are certainly intriguing.
Renault was the first to take the concept seriously with the Twizy, but since then several Japanese companies have had a go, and Europe has also tackled the urban congestion problem with a series of small, electric vehicles.
Now, it's South Korea's turn, with the crazy Armadillo-T electric car (Phys.org, via Autoblog). Armadillos are known for their hard outer shell and the ability to curl into a protective ball when threatened--and the car does something very similar.
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Not when it's threatened, though--it'd be inconvenient if your car turned into an impenetrable ball every time an Escalade tailgated you on the freeway. Instead, like the Hiriko folding electric car, it rolls up to ease parking, and to take up less space when it's parked.
Unlike the Hiriko, which pivots in the middle to bring its front and rear wheels closer together, the Armadillo-T lowers a set of castors half way down its chassis, before the entire rear of the vehicle flips over the front, raising the rear wheels from the ground.
The front of the Amadillo-T isn't dissimilar from the aforementioned Twizy, down to its hinged semi-doors, outboard wheels and bubble-like screen. From the middle of the car backwards, it could be described as more conventional--until you see it do its party piece. Unlike the Twizy, a fully parked and locked--up Armadillo-T actually protects the car's interior from the effects of weather, and no doubt makes objects contained within a little more theft-proof too.
The shrinking process takes only around 15 seconds, and reduces the car's 110-inch length to just 65 inches.
Even more amazingly, the whole process can be conducted by smartphone--including the parking itself, so if you feel you've made a rough job of it from inside the car, you can adjust the car's position using your phone...
It's not freeway-capable with a top speed of only 37 mph, but its 13.6 kWh lithium-ion battery is good for over 60 miles of range, more than enough for a city-only vehicle. Power is provided by four in-wheel electric motors, and the battery itself is in the front, so there'll be no awkward moments where you return to your car to find it's fallen onto the rear wheels.
Developed by researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, associate professor In-Soo Suh told Phys.org, "This car is ideal for urban travels, including car-sharing and transit transfer, to offer major transportation links in a city."