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South Korea launches ‘Armadillo’ folding electric car

Four-wheel-drive, all-electric car can hit speeds of 60km/h and when folded three can fit into one average-sized parking space

The Armadillo-T developed by researchers from KAUST. (Pic: KAIST)

 

By Nilima Choudhury

Meet the Armadillo-T.

It’s a four-wheel-drive, all-electric car developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and it weighs just 450kg.

And if you’re in a tight spot and need to park in a hurry, you’re in luck. Just like an Armadillo, it can tuck its rear body away, shrinking from 2.8 metres down to 1.65 metres.

The vehicle that can be used either as a personal car or part of the public transit system to connect major transportation routes within a city.

The car has a maximum speed of 60km/h, and with a ten-minute fast charge, it can run up to 100km. The car’s developers are confident that the Armadillo concept will be copied around the world.

“I expect that people living in cities will eventually shift their preferences from bulky, petro-engine cars to smaller and lighter electric cars,” says In-Soo Suh from KAIST.

“In coming years, we will see more mega-size cities established and face more serious environmental problems. Throughout the world, the aging population is rapidly growing as well.

“To cope with climate, energy, and limited petroleum resources, we really need to think outside the box, once again, to find more convenient and eco-friendly transportation, just as the Ford Model T did in the early 1920s.”

The car can shrink from its original size of 2.8m to 1.65m when folded. (Pic: KAIST)

Supported by the Korean government, the research team were inspired by an an armadillo’s distinctive protection characteristic of rolling up into a ball when facing with threat from predators.

Since the motors are installed inside the wheels, and the 13.6kWh 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 optimises the energy efficiency but also provides stability and ample room to drivers and passengers.

Once folded, the electric vehicle takes up only one-third of a 5 metre 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.

Integrated smart features include cameras installed inside the car, eliminating the need for side mirrors and reducing blind spots. Drivers can also control the Armadillo’s folding mechanism with a smartphone.


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