A small and light electric car that can completely fold in half that has been developed recently in Korea has caused a stir.
A group of researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) on August 13 unveiled this foldable, compact electric vehicle called the Armadillo-T. They designed this compact model based on a native animal of South America, the armadillo, a placental mammal with a leathery armor shell. Imitating the animal’s defensive adaptation of rolling up into a ball when facing a threat, the research team have designed the Armadillo-T to tuck its rear body away, making it shrink from its original size of 2.8 meters down to almost half, 1.65 meters, when folded.
The four-wheel-drive, all-electric two-seater car weights 500 kilograms and can reach speeds up to 60 kilometers per hour at maximum. It can go as far as 100 kilometers when quick-charged for ten minutes.
Korea.net had an interview with In-soo Suh, associate professor of the Graduate School for Green Transportation at KAIST, who led the research team to introduce the prototype micro electric car.
Q: Armadillo-T has been the center of attention. What inspired you to introduce the foldable compact electric car?
To this day, humans have introduced a number of foldable items for higher spatial efficiency that include cell phones, bicycles, and laptops. However, we haven’t had any idea of a foldable car in Korea where lack of parking and roads jammed-packed with traffic are all-too-familiar scenes. There comes the idea of the Armadillo-T, as a possible solution to such problems.
On the other hand, we expect it to bring many social benefits. As we introduce this tiny car to a new industry, we will need to develop relevant laws and regulations which all will end up creating new jobs.
Q: The Armadillo-T can fold its body by over a meter into almost half its size. How does it work?
The basic gear mechanism is that the folding motors lift and fold the lighter back parts of the car into the center body. For the folding process, it was designed to have In-Wheel motors installed inside and remove unnecessary parts. Once folded, the light vehicle takes up only one-third of a five-meter parking space, the standard size in Korea, allowing three of its kind to be parked.
Q: Do you expect any additional costs for the commercialization of the vehicle?
Our direction has been that the public should purchase the vehicle at an affordable price. More technological development would be needed for its commercialization in order to equip with more requirements such as maintainability, durability, and stability.
At this point, we cannot measure its exact commercial value. The pricing would depend on various factors including market requirements, new laws and regulations, mass production basis, and materials. To our knowledge, however, price increase would not be too high considering its folding characteristic.
Q: How would drivers benefit from the four independent wheels?
The four wheels all work independently which mean it can continue moving in such emergency situations as one or two motors out of order. Also, with a smart phone-interfaced remote control on the wheels, the vehicle can turn 360 degrees, enhancing drivers’ convenience to park the car, even in an odd space such as the corner of a building.
Q: What functions are performed by remote control?
All remote control function is linked and activated through X-Wire (not a mechanical but an electronic connection system). Drivers can use the remote control of their smart phones for various functions including change of location of the vehicle, turning on and off the lights, as well as starting the engine. Now we are planning to equip more functions such as spatial navigation, route generation, and automatic parking.
The current version utilizes Bluetooth when transmitting an order from smart phone to vehicle, and therefore it has been designed to activate only at a close distance. In the future, it will be applied to different communication modes as needed, to avoid communication interference and expand its working distance.
Q: How does the Armadillo-T differentiate from folding electric cars already introduced in the U.S. and Europe?
How it folds is a main point. When folded, the previous models have to lift their batteries while the Armadillo-T does not have to change the positions of its batteries and motors, which increases energy efficiency and provides stability. It also provides ample room for drivers and passengers.
During the Amardillo-T design process, we tried to adopt many commercialization features than other foldable cars had introduced at previous motor shows. And the current version is targeted at a motor show in October as well. In addition to the launch of In-Wheel Motors, we have many innovative parts ranging from the increased space in usage and the folding mechanism, to the tiny cute design of the vehicle.
Q: How do you predict the direction of the vehicle?
A further level of R&D, technical standards, and regulatory reviews will be required to increase social awareness and put these types of micro vehicles on the market. The Armadillo-T is expected to contribute to bringing forward the popularization of compact electric vehicles.
Cr : Oh KPOP