The small and light electric car completely folds in half when parking, making it a perfect fit for public or private transportation in an urban environment.
Looking for a parking space for hours at a busy shopping mall or being stuck on roads jammed with cars releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide are all-too-familiar scenes for city dwellers.
A group of researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) recently developed a possible solution to such problems: a foldable, compact electric vehicle that can be utilized either as a personal car or part of the public transit system to connect major transportation routes within a city.
In-Soo Suh, associate professor of the Graduate School for Green Transportation at KAIST, and his research team introduced a prototype micro electric car called “Armadillo-T,” whose design is based on a native animal of South America, the armadillo, a placental mammal with a leathery armor shell.
The research team imitated the animal’s distinctive protection characteristic of rolling up into a ball when facing with threat from predators. Just as armadillos hide themselves inside the shell, Armadillo-T tucks its rear body away, shrinking its original size of 2.8 meters (110 inches) down to almost half, 1.65 meters (65 inches), when folding.
Armadillo-T is a four-wheel-drive, all-electric car with two seats and four in-wheel motors. Since the motors are installed inside the wheels, and the 13.6 kWh capacity of lithium-ion battery pack is housed on the front side, the battery and motors do not have to change their positions when the car folds. This not only optimizes the energy efficiency but also provides stability and ample room to drivers and passengers.
Once folded, the small and light (weighs 450 kg) electric vehicle takes up only one-third of a 5-meter parking space, the standard parking size in Korea, allowing three of its kind to be parked. With a smartphone-interfaced remote control on the wheels, the vehicle can turn 360 degrees, enhancing drivers’ convenience to park the car, even in an odd space in a parking lot, the corner of a building, for example.
Professor In-Soo Suh said, “I expect that people living in cities will eventually shift their preferences from bulky, petro-engine cars to smaller and lighter electric cars. Armadillo-T can be one of the alternatives city drivers can opt for. 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.”
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