hiriko barroso 1-12

Hiriko Chairman Jesus Achave (right) demonstrates the new city car to EU Commission President Barroso at a Brussels event (Photo: Hiriko)

A Spanish consortium plans to market a city car that folds, in yet another move to change driving habits in major metropolitan areas.

The Hiriko car is being developed by a consortium from the Basque region of Spain in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The car's unique folding design makes it smaller than a smart fortwo when parked. The vehicle will also have an advanced steer-by-wire system and in-wheel electric motors.

Axeon will supply lithium-ion battery systems for the Hiriko city car. Starting this quarter, the large European maker of lithium-ion battery systems will provide two parallel-mounted batteries for Hiriko prototypes that will be tested in cities around the world.

Hiriko said the first assembly plant will start building the cars in 2013, with production slated to reach 9,000 units a year by 2015 in different franchises in Europe and America. Most of the cars are expected to go to rental and car-sharing organizations.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the Brussels ceremony that the project "combines new business possibilities with the creation of employment and social innovation." The project was partially funded with contributions from the European Union aimed at supporting regions that have lost major industrial sectors and face high unemployment.

Said Barroso about the project: "It is European social innovation at its best."

The Hiriko car will have full electric autonomy of 120km and will have a top speed of 90km/hour.