Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Researchers Engineer The Foldable Car

Finding somewhere to park in a busy city is one of the many problems that owning a motor vehicle can bring. With drivers in the United States still seeming to prefer bulkier forms of personal transport, automobile designers face a number of engineering challenges in bringing small and fuel efficient cars into the urban landscape.
However, engineering research conducted by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology may have found a means of reducing not only the carbon emissions produced by the so-called gas guzzlers but also the difficulties that a search for a parking spot can bring. According to Smart Planet - which is not related to the popular electric vehicle brand - South Korean researchers have created the Armadillo-T, a car that maximizes space purely by its ability to fold itself in half.
Alternative transport
To say that the concept vehicle is an alternative form of transport is somewhat of an understatement. According to the news source, the prototype EV is able to reduce its overall length from 110 inches to 65 inches, allowing it take up around 33 percent of a standard parking space in South Korea. With a top speed of around 37 m.p.h and a range of 62 miles, the Armadillo-T is unlikely to be racing down the highway, but this is a car that is built for convenience and not for speed.
"I expect that people living in cities will eventually shift their preferences from bulky, petro-engine cars to smaller and lighter electric cars," said In-Soo Suh, a professor at KAIST who led its development, in a press release. "Armadillo-T can be one of the alternatives city drivers can opt for. Particularly, this car is ideal for urban travels, including car-sharing and transit transfer, to offer major transportation links in a city."
The design of the car is what sets it apart. Engineers at KAIST took inspiration from the South American mammal, with its ability to hide itself inside a shell - thus reducing its body length - seen as the ideal solution for an urban-centric vehicle. The Armadillo-T contains only two seats but, importantly, four individual motors that are installed within the wheels as opposed to the standard placement in either the front or back, and this is what allows it fold itself inwards.
In addition to this, it has cameras installed inside that remove the need for side mirrors, while drivers can use a smartphone to induce the folding process. At the same time, the individually-placed wheel motors can be used to turn the car 360 degrees, a convenient feature that could see drivers park the Armadillo in the tightest of spaces.
Urban solutions
Powered by a 13.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the vehicle takes around ten minutes to charge and with both the wheel motors and the battery situated outside the car, there is reportedly enough room for two people to travel in comfort. According to materials provided by KAIST, Suh has been working on the concept vehicle since 2011, with his engineering research and development of the EV directly linked to the evolution of personal transport options in an increasingly urbanized world.
"In coming years, we will see more mega-size cities established and face more serious environmental problems," said Suh. "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. A further level of R&D, technical standards, and regulatory reviews are required to have these types of micro vehicles or PMVs on the market through test-bed evaluations, but we believe that Armadillo-T is an icon toward the future transport system with technology innovation."