Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have been working on designing a small electric car that can park in previously inaccessible spaces. Hoping to solve both problems of inner city pollution and congestion this two-seater vehicle provides car-like comfort and shelter from the elements but can be parked in a space similar to that used by a couple of scooters.
The Armadillo-T prototype electric car design is said to have been influenced by the body of the South American armadillo. This animal apparently rolls up when facing threat from a predator (like the much more commonly seen but less glamorous woodlice).
With its armadillo-like rolling up manoeuvre this electric car can tuck away its rear body and shrink from its original 2.8 metres in length to almost half that, 1.65 metres. Phys.org reports that three of these folded up electric vehicles can occupy one standard car parking space. Have a look at the video below to see the space saving transformation in action.
Video doesn't show that after folding the car you can use your smartphone to manoeuvre it into a parking spot
The video doesn’t show the full extent of the Armadillo T’s parkability, as described by the WSJ Korea Realtime blog, the site describes the use of a smartphone to control the folded up car’s wheels once you have exited the vehicle. After exiting the vehicle you use your Armadillo-T app to initiate the car folding process. (I hope there are some safety measures that prevent a car folding while occupied.) Once the car is folded you again utilise your smartphone to manoeuvre your car into the teeny weeny space. Aiding the nimblest of parking feats, each of the car wheels can be independently controlled.
OK, so we have established that this car is easy for parking, what about the other specs? The Armadillo-T has a 100Km range from a 10-minute fast-charge and can motor along at 60KM/h.
In-Soo Suh, Associate Professor of the Graduate School for Green Transportation at KAIST expects this or a similar car derived from it to be one of the catalysts to shift people from petrol engine cars and scooters in cities. Prof In-Soo said “Particularly, this car is ideal for urban travels, including car-sharing and transit transfer, to offer major transportation links in a city. In addition to the urban application, local near-distance travels such as tourist zones or large buildings can be another example of application.” Cars like the Armadillio-T could be commonplace in the centres of megacities in the not-too-distant future.
The research team from KAIST reckon it will be three to five more years before the Armadillo-T is available commercially. Some government agencies and companies have shown interest in the design but, as yet, no large car maker has made a move.