Urenio Watch Watch: Innovation

Intelligent fold-up Electric Car developed by MIT

The new intelligent fold-up electric car developed by the MIT can be an excellent example of innovation in action, a perfect solution to ease the traffic and pollution problems of large cities, and a potential commerical success! The CityCar is the ideal vehicle for the smart cities of the future! This revolutionary foldable car has been created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and it is being commercialised by a consortium of automotive suppliers in the Basque region of Spain. The CityCar is a product of MIT but the institute has collaborated since 2009 with Denokinn, the Basque Centre for innovation, enterpreneurship and new business, from Vitoria, Spain, as well as with their partner companies, in order to refine the design and technology of the CityCar ahead of its commercialisation.

The final design of the CityCar has been unveiled a couple of weeks ago, on January 24, in the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels. The EU capital is one of the cities interested in the new car, as it negotiating to place an order for 100 vehicles next year. The CityCar is considered by several cities around the world as part of a Mobility-on-Demand smart ecosystem that will allow commuters to use an access card to pick up a vehicle from a charging point and drive it to another access point within the city!

The amazing CityCar has been branded Hiriko, from the basque word for “urban”, and appropriately so. The CityCar has seats for two passengers, an unfolded length of two metres, and a weight of 450 kilos.  The design is packed with breathtaking innovations! When the car is parked, the wheels roll together and the passenger cabin slides upwards, folding the chassis so that three CityCars can fit into one traditional parking space and make parking much more efficient in crowded cities! The vehicle runs on two rechargable lithium-ion batteries with a range of 120 kilometres, and a top speed that is electronically curbed to comply with speed limits in city centres. The electric motors of the CityCar are in the wheels, called Robot Wheels. Each wheel can be independently controlled, allowing the car to execute incredibly tight maneuvers such as spinning on its own axis and turning on the spot!

The commercial potential of the CityCar already seems promising:

Several cities have shown interest in the CityCar РBarcelona, Berlin, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Malm̦ in Sweden, Quito and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Vitoria-Gasteiz, the second largest city in the Basque region.

Talks are in progress with Paris, London, Amsterdam, Geneva, Boston, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Brussels.

Each member of the Basque consortium is responsible for producing one of the modules that makes up the CityCar. Production assembly lines would be created in deprived areas of the cities that decide to accept the unique vehicles.

Private citizens as well as cities will be able to purchase the folding cars at prices around 12,500 euros (US$16,600).

Conceived by a team of MIT students led by the late Professor William J. Mitchell (1944-2010), the CityCar project is part of larger initiative at the MIT Media Lab devoted to investigating urban mobility systems.

Professor Mitchell’s Smart Cities research group at the MIT Media Lab (2003-2010) designed the CityCar to take on the biggest issues facing cities – congestion, inefficient use of energy and land, air and noise pollution, and carbon emissions leading to global warming.

The CityCar designer is William Lark, Jr., a PhD student who worked in Mitchell’s Smart Cities group.

In developing these concepts the Smart Cities research group employed anti-disciplinary research teams, a tradition formed at the Media Lab. The design team consisted of architects, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, computer scientists, urban planners, operations researchers, neurologists, sociologists and economists. electric-assist bicycle called the GreenWheel.

In addition to the CityCar, the Smart Cities team has designed a folding electric motor scooter called the RoboScooter, and an electrically assisted bicycle, the GreenWheel.

The GreenWheel integrates lithium-ion batteries with electric motors into a small modular hub unit that could be retrofitted on any standard bicycle.

Together with the CityCar, the RoboScooter and GreenWheel create a Mobility-on-Demand ecosystem of lightweight and low-energy EVs, allowing users to select the appropriate vehicle for each trip segment.

MIT says the CityCar and the other lightweight EVs are designed to be shared. By deploying CityCars at charging points throughout a metropolitan area, any user of the system can walk up, swipe an access card, pick up a vehicle, and drive it to any other charging point.

Mobility-on-Demand systems address what transportation planners call the “first mile, last mile” problem of mass transit systems, by providing mobility near or at a user’s origin and final destination – creating a intermodal network that is complementary and synergistic to transit systems.

The research on urban mobility conducted by the Smart Cities group resulted in the publication of a book Professor Mitchell wrote with two top research executives from General Motors, Chris Borroni-Bird and Lawrence Burns. “Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century,” is published by MIT Press.

Read the original article in Environment News Service.