Hiriko folding car project spawns a Gundam Car
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 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.