Eureka! It’s the Hiriko!

Do you remember the BMW Isetta? The first bubble car produced on a mass scale? Let’s go back to the 1950s then. Debatably, the Isetta was the first affordable car (at that time most people bought motor cycles) but with 13 horsepower still able enough to comfortably (well relatively) get you to your holiday destination. But most of all, the Isetta embodied the spirit of urban mobility, which had become part of the fresh-start feeling during post-war times. Today, in 2013, a concept like the Isetta would be appreciated in some ways but would fail in others. For example, the Isetta would obviously be too loud and too dirty for today’s (or tomorrow’s) standards. But: a newer, smaller (!), and cleaner Isetta is climbing the stage. It’s called the Hiriko.

Small, smaller, Hiriko

Hiriko means “from the inner city” in Basque and that’s also what the Hiriko looks like.[1] The concept was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US and is now being realised by the Basque company Denokinn in Spain. But why, for all the choice we have, did we pick out this electric car to report about and not any of the other thousands of concepts currently being implemented? Because the Hiriko has features that make it different from any other car in the world. In a way, the Hiriko is the city car. An example is the fact that each of the four wheels can turn 60 degrees. The Hiriko can travel sideways or even spin on its own central axis. This means parking becomes a piece of cake. You simply stop next to the gap and then drive sideways and parked you are. However, there is another trick it can do, which we find particularly exquisite. The Hiriko can fold itself. Yes, a car that, at the touch of a button, tucks its rear-end beneath its chassis. So “unfolded” the Hiriko measures 2,5 metres in length.[2] Exactly 0,2 metres longer than the BMW Isetta. When parked or “folded”, however, the Hiriko shrinks to a length of only 1.5 metres. That’s one metre shorter than a smart fortwo.

A carsharing car

Apart from these two unique features, the Hiriko can easily compete with other electric cars out there. Its range is 120 kilometres with a top speed of 50kmh. Plans are to put the Hiriko not in the hands of the individual but in the hands of the public. It will be the ideal carsharing vehicle also because it only requires fifteen minutes to charge its batteries. The company that runs the German railway network, the Deutsche Bahn, is currently running a pilot programme aimed at providing a vehicle for the “last mile” leg (the distance from the station to the final destination). They’ve chosen the Hiriko for the job. “Hiriko is the only vehicle specifically designed to understand mobility as an integral door-to-door service”, says Andreas Knie, Director of Innovation at Deutsche Bahn.[3] Of course this confirms the potential of the Hiriko itself. The only problem we see is the fact that it has one door, which is also its bonnet that could make getting out a difficulty. Especially when another car is parked just in front. However, this was also the case with the Isetta and didn’t stop it from becoming a major success.

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