The engineer team have completed the prototype of the second version of the concept car and it is a head turner, not through looks but through sheer awesomeness.
After you get over the boxy look of the thing and the name, EO smart connecting car 2 (EOscc2), you are then sucked in by the ergonomics and capabilities of the car.
It has seats for two, and scissor doors that make it easy to get in and out of the vehicle. It has a large windshield that continues in a panoramic roof.
And now the robotics bit comes in: the car has a rail system to which the back axle is attached that makes it possible to shorten the car from 2.5 meters to just 2 m by pulling the back wheels under the car. At the same time the back of the car raises from 1.6 meters to 2.25 m which allows for a better view of the outside for parking maneuvers.
The wheels are the real WOW factor of the car. Each is attached to a 4kW wheelhub motor that allows for some interesting tricks. The car turns by rotating the front and the back wheels as well so one can turn on the spot and drive the vehicle sideways by rotating all wheels by 90 degrees in either direction.
The car is fully electric with a 54V – LiFePo4 battery and the top speed is 40 mph.
And now the bad news: aside from the crab like side motion, all has been done already.
There’s the Hiriko Fold, developed by the Hiriko Driving Mobility company in the Basque Country as the commercial version of the CityCar project devised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The differences are that this one is lighter than the EOscc2 by one third (from 750 kilos down to 500 kg or 1,100 lb), the range is almost double (75 mi as opposed to almost 40 mi), you get inside the car by opening and lifting the entire front end and windshield and the wheels only turn by a maximum of 60 degrees in either direction. The top speed is slightly lower at 31 mph.
The Hiriko Fold even got to production phase but the company had financial problems because it failed to attract investors from the private sector and in May 2013 the plans for mass manufacturing were put on hold indefinitely. It even had a price listed at US$16,400 plus battery leasing costs but in the end nothing more came out of it.
General Motors had a go as well at the city commute car style with the EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle). The first iteration launched in 2010 had atrocious range (25 mi) and top speed (25 mph). The cool thing was it had only two wheels and the balancing computer system was provided by Segway.
All these cars are bursting with optical and ultrasonic sensors, radars, GPS, radio communication equipment that allow them to “talk” to other cars of the same type and, in the future, make it possible for them to even form platoons by docking, where one car is the leader and the others follow it, allowing the drivers to release control of the vehicle and perhaps read a newspaper.
While the research and progress done through these projects is quite valuable, especially when creating technology that makes the car more autonomous and aware of the surroundings and the road conditions, the limitations are quite obvious.
The ideas are great for crowded cities where parking spaces are rare and having a small car allows you to squeeze in narrow places and leave your car out of everyone’s way, but what about the range of these electric vehicles?
What about the carry capacity, which is inexistent? Even more pressing, what about the lack of infrastructure and charging stations to support electric cars? When are we going to see battery packs that allow the driver to forget about range anxiety?
It seems that as the large urban hubs are getting bigger, the EV car technology is falling behind and maybe we should change the car’s purpose from a city car to a neighborhood car.
Image Source: Robotik