The Hiriko Fold (you think that’s Japanese, but it’s from the Basque for “urban”! Basque! Didn’t see THAT coming, did you?) was conceived a decade ago by researchers at MIT media lab, who wanted to design a small car that got even smaller for tight city parking. Now it’s finally going into commercial production, which means you could have your own sweet little fold-up car as early as 2013.
The all-electric Fold is normally eight feet long, already smaller than a SmartCar. But it folds up to a mere five feet long for parking, about the size of a shopping cart — small enough that three (and a half) of them can fit in a standard parking space. And all four wheels can swivel up to 60 degrees, which means you can just sort of sidle into the space instead of dealing with all that parallel-parking hoo-hah.
This is definitely not a road-trip car. It’s got a range of about 75 miles on one charge of its lithium-ion battery, and a top speed of 31 miles per hour. And if you’re already an accomplished urban biker, you might want to save your money — your bike already fits in small spaces, and the Fold will cost $16,400, which can buy you a lot of padded shorts. But for non-cyclists who want to zip around the city, you could do a lot worse than a zero-emissions car that can fit into the spaces shitty parkers leave behind.
The designers aren’t interested in the private market, though, so much as in the idea of selling fleets of Hiroki Folds for municipal car-sharing programs. If they get their wish, cities like Berlin, Barcelona, and San Francisco could be equipped with flocks of wee carlets for tourists and commuters to borrow. (Note that two of those target cities have some serious killer hills, making an EV-share program more realistic for non-Übermenschen than bikes.) Instead of spending all your milk money on a Fold, then, you could join a program that would let you use one on the weekdays to get to work. Or you could just borrow one to fold it and unfold it and fold it and unfold it a couple of times. We won’t judge.
Shrink-to-Fit Car for City Parking, New York Times.