That the Hiriko electric car prototype is small is obvious to anyone. Perhaps less obvious is that, in parking, the Hiriko becomes even smaller. Thanks to a folding mechanism that tucks the rear of the car in under the chassis, the Hiriko's length can be reduced to the width of an ordinary automobile. The result? It's possible to park three Hirikos in a single parking bay.

The folding allows the automobile to be reduced from an already diminutive length of 100 down to a mere 60 inches (2.5 down to 1.5 meters). The folding is carried out during parking, and doesn't require the driver to leave the comfort of her seat, much less get her hands dirty.

Better still, the Hiriko's windshield doubles as the car door, so drivers and passengers (the car is a two-seater) can park facing the sidewalk without have to worry about chipping paint or bruising cheekbones attempting to squeeze in and out of narrow gaps.

Perhaps the key feature of the Hiriko is its "robot wheels" which allow the car to turn more or less on the spot about its center. Each integrates a motor, steering actuators, suspension and braking right inside the wheel, controlled by a drive-by-wire system. The car is entirely battery-powered with a single-charge range of 75 miles (120 km).

The Hiriko is an evolution of MIT's CityCar project, in collaboration with Denokinn (the Basque Center for Innovation) and a consortium of Spanish businesses. The word Hiriko itself derives from the Basque words hiri (town or city) and kotxe (car) - so the name is in essence merely an English to Basque translation.

Electric Car News put the price of the Hiriko at £11,000 (US$17,430), which broadly agrees with other figures that have been suggested, though it may be that the car is more popular with city authorities hoping (perhaps clamoring) to introduce fleets of Hirikos for inner-city hire schemes. In any case the electric cars are expected to take to the streets in 2013. The car was unveiled at the end of January by president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.

Check out the MIT CG below.

Product page: Hiriko, source: Electric Car News via the Telegraph