Urban Transport

Hiriko folding car project spawns a Gundam Car

Hiriko folding car project spa...
The Gundam-inspired "Niigata model" Hiriko folding electric car mockup at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
The Gundam-inspired "Niigata model" Hiriko folding electric car mockup at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
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The Gundam-inspired "Niigata model" Hiriko folding electric car mockup at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
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The Gundam-inspired "Niigata model" Hiriko folding electric car mockup at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
Girls dressed as Mirai Suenaga outfits at the Mirai Project booth (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
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Girls dressed as Mirai Suenaga outfits at the Mirai Project booth (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
The Hiriko on which the mockup is based folds its rear wheels underneath to reduce its length (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
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The Hiriko on which the mockup is based folds its rear wheels underneath to reduce its length (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
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Legendary mechanical designer Kunio Okawara is responsible for the design of the Niigata model Hiriko (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
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Legendary mechanical designer Kunio Okawara is responsible for the design of the Niigata model Hiriko (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
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Artist's concept of the Hiriko on the road
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Artist's concept of the Hiriko on the road
Artist's concept of the Hiriko on the road
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Artist's concept of the Hiriko on the road
Artist's concept of the Hiriko on the road
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Artist's concept of the Hiriko on the road
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The Hiriko folding car has been chosen for a car-sharing program in Berlin
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The Hiriko folding car has been chosen for a car-sharing program in Berlin
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Logo of the Mirai Project
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Logo of the Mirai Project
The Mirai Project booth at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
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The Mirai Project booth at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)

One of the standout oddities at the Tokyo Motor Show this year was a Hiriko fold-up electric two-seater which received a Gundam-style makeover for the event. The colorful paint job came courtesy of Kunio Okawara, the legendary mechanical designer responsible for a veritable shopping list of mecha designs.

Although Hiriko might sound Japanese, the name actually comes from the Basque word for "urban," reflecting the car's commercial development at Denokinn (the Basque Center for Innovation) in Spain following its initial development at MIT's Media Lab.

According to Anime News Network, Japanese R&D company Four Link Systems, which holds the Japanese rights for the vehicle, is working with Niigata Prefecture to develop a new "Niigata model" Hiriko that will be released in Japan through the Mirai-Project (Future Project). It is a mockup of this model that was on show in Tokyo.

Although the Hiriko doesn't boast the same degrees of freedom as a Gundam, it does have a folding mechanism, which allows it to reduce its length by a meter (3.3 ft) to take up less space when parked. It's unclear if the Niigata model will have any differences with the Hiriko that aren't purely cosmetic, but we can only hope there are some mecha-inspired functions in addition to the Hiriko's folding capabilities.

The Mirai Project booth at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)
The Mirai Project booth at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Mike Hanlon / Gizmag.com)

The Mirai Project didn't just stop at enlisting the services of Kunio Okawara, but also uses Mirai Suenaga, the mascot character for the popular Culture Japan website. This was evidenced by the girls at the booth at the Tokyo Motor Show decked out in Mirai Suenaga outfits.

Test drives of the Niigata model are reportedly planned for mid-2014.

To check out some of the other highlights (and oddities) head through to our 2013 Tokyo Motor Show gallery.

Sources: Hiriko Project, Anime News Network

2 comments
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is really beautiful.
Mirmillion
Very Samurai inspired, so should appeal to millions of Japanese.