Railway operator Deutche Bahn and Hiriko will start a pilot project in 2013, with plans for a broader rollout of the vehicle the following year. Deutche Bahn called Hiriko an "ideal partner to complement its extensive railway network."
Hiroko consists of a Basque consortium of auto suppliers and engineers from MIT. The company, whose name loosely means "from the city" in Basque, has about an $87 million budget and has built about 20 vehicles for testing purposes, the New York Times reported in August. The Fold is the first of three versions that will be put out by Hiriko. There are also plans for the Alai (convertible) and Laga (truck).
The car is about eight feet long, about a foot shorter than Daimler's Smart Fortwo, in regular form, and can be folded to a length of about five feet. The car's four wheels can also rotate at a 60-degree angle. Check out Hiriko's press release below.
Deutsche Bahn, the international mobility supplier and also the company that operates the German railway network, has chosen the Hiriko electric vehicle –promoted by a Basque corporate consortium- to complete its transport network in Berlin. Both entities have reached a collaboration agreement this morning in the German capital to initiate a pilot project with which to progressively incorporate the Basque vehicle into the car sharing network with which Deutche Bahn completes its railway services.
The agreement, that includes a joint development of the Hiriko project in Germany,, includes an initial phase in 2013 in which the Hiriko Fold folding is to be tested and adapted for public use in Berlin through the electroMobility platform of the InnoZ Innovation Centre.
Once all of the technical approvals have been obtained, it is planned to integrate Hiriko into Deutsche Bahn's electric car sharing system –denominated eFlinkster. In practice, these Basque vehicles will circulate through the urban landscape of Berlin in test mode in 2013 and finally in an official manner in 2014.
This agreement is a token of first-level support for the Basque Consortium, since Deutsche Bahn is one of the world's main mobility and logistics suppliers. Having the German railways as their central element, Deutsche Bahn transports over 2700 million people a year, is present in over 130 countries, has a workforce of 290,000 and its turnover in 2011 was just below 40,000 million euros.
Within its objective of providing integral mobility solutions, Deutsche Bahn has appreciated certain singular characteristics in the Hiriko project that convert it into an ideal partner to complement its extensive railway network with a service of electric car sharing in big cities. In fact, Deutsche Bahn now does not only sell train tickets, but also includes the possibility of using a vehicle parked at the station with which to complete "the last mile" of the journey to customers' final destinations. For this purpose, Deutsche Bahn is already operating several car sharing fleets.
To conclude the agreement, the fact that Hiriko is the only vehicle specifically designed for electric car sharing in big cities was the decisive factor. This is reinforced by the fact that the vehicle can fold up, occupying less space, and that its vanguard electronics allow it to connect to the most advanced intermobility platforms.
Both entities have unveiled the collaboration agreement this morning in Berlin, in a meeting in which the Hiriko General Manager, Mr. Armando Gaspar, and Mr. Andreas Knie, representing Deutsche Bahn, were present. This event took place within the framework of the B-mobility project –the main initiative for testing electric vehicles in Germany-, and has also been used to present the two main Hiriko vehicles to society: the Hiriko Fold prototype and the Hiriko IALAI roadster concept car. The Fold version has circulated in the urban environments of the Brandenburg Gate, the electric mobility innovation centre and other emblematic landmarks in Berlin.
Andreas Knie, the Director of Innovation in Deutsche Bahn (DB), pointed out that "Hiriko is the only vehicle specifically designed to understand mobility as an integral door-to-door service". "We are placing our stakes on Hiriko because it allows us to test and develop intelligent mobility solutions for 21st-century Germany".
On the other hand, Armando Gaspar, the Director General of Hiriko, considered that "this agreement is a fundamental landmark in the international development of the Hiriko project". "Up to the present, Hiriko has been a great innovation project, and now it is becoming an industrial reality".
One of Deutsche Bahn's main partners in the development of innovating urban mobility proposals is the InnoZ electric mobility research centre, with which Hiriko has been collaborating for over two years. As a result of this collaboration, on 27th May 2010 the first Hiriko prototype was unveiled in Berlin together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Since 2010, the Basque consortium has also been collaborating with the Berlin authorities, who have appreciated in Hiriko an attractive opportunity to respond to the city's intelligent mobility needs. In this context, this morning's meeting is a solid step forward in that it reaffirms Deutsche Bahn's and Berlín's commitment with the Basque electric vehicle.