E3 Spark Plugs Wants to Know: Would You Buy a Fold-Up Car?

The Hiriko EV folds up, taking even less parking space than the Smart For-Two. Mass production is slated to start next year in Spain.

Not long ago in the E3 Spark Plugs blog we introduced you to Terrafugia’s Transition Roadable Aircraft, a revolutionary integration of the personal car and light-weight aircraft expected to hit the market later this year. Essentially a flying car, the Transition reminds us of that most iconic of futuristic concept rides – The Jetsons’ family space car/jet. And now, we’ve got another likely Jetsons-inspired ride that’s set for production in Spain next year.

Unfortunately, this one doesn’t sprout wings and fly. But what it does is pretty impressive. Remember The Jetson’s opening sequence, where George flies his space ride onto the conveyor belt leading to his office, pushes a button and the ride folds up into a briefcase? Well, the Hiriko EV isn’t quite that futuristic, but it comes pretty darn close.

Debuted at the Brussels Auto Show earlier this year, the Hiriko is a single-door, two-seater smart car that uses a hub-mounted electric motor at each wheel and a joystock-operated steer-by-wire system. But the most interesting feature is a rear suspension design that allows the vehicle to fold up, rotating the cabin vertically. While the folded-up Hiriko EV won’t fit in your briefcase or laptop bag, it will fit into a space roughly one third the parking space of a Smart For-Two.

The Hiriko was developed by a consortium of business and government entities from Spain’s Basque region working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Twenty test vehicles are being built right now and, if all goes well, developers expect the first assembly plant to begin mass production next year, churning out 9,000 units a year by 2015. Most likely will go to rental and car-sharing organizations while we all wait to see if the global masses warm up to the concept. Not everyone is convinced.

“I don’t get it. How does it fold?” says one commenter on an Autoblog.com story about the Hiriko EV.

“When it gets between a Buick and a garbage truck,” another commenter replied.

Judging from articles and comments posted online, the consensus is that the Hiriko EV could be a great choice for those driving primarily in small towns and EV-focused communities, and for lousy parkers who couldn’t get their sedans and SUVs squarely between two white lines if their lives depended on it, but an impractical and potentially dangerous choice for open-road driving or big city commuting. Some mention a similar fold-up concept car that proved a blip on the pop culture scene sometime during the 1970s and quickly disappeared. We’re looking for info on that one.

What do you think of the Hiriko EV? Would you buy one? If so, would you drive it everywhere or only in certain areas? Post your thoughts on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook fan page. And meanwhile, enjoy this TV joyride back to the future…