The 'Armadillo' Car Folds Up for Easy Parking

SEOUL, South Korea - The new buzz in South Korea's car industry is a micro electric car that folds in half and parks itself by a remote control app on your smartphone.

"We see cars as a complicated machine. But it is now time to start thinking new. Cars will be handy and convenient in the future. In other words, it will be more of a consumer electronic product," said Suh In-Soo, a professor at the Graduate School for Green Transportation at KAIST who led the project.

The Armadillo-T, named after its design for its rear looks like a South American armadillo shell, shrinks from 110 inches to 70 inches. The rear shell kicks upward covering over the front, taking up only one-third of a typical Korean parking space. The micro car has a maximum speed of 37 mph and can travel 62 miles off a 10-minute fast charge.

"At first, I thought it was a toy. But the best part about it is that it's environmentally efficient and could save a lot of space," said Lee Chanhee, a student at a recent Korea Automotive Industry Exhibition of the Armadillo-T near Seoul.

Suh's team started the project three years ago, inspired by the MIT CityCar, an electric concept car designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. A Spanish consortium, Hiriko Driving Mobility, has begun a commercialized version of the CityCar in Vitoria-Gasteiz, as part of a car-sharing program last year. A foldable version, Hiriko Fold, is in trial service in Berlin, Germany, run by Deutsche Bahn.

Jiyoung Sohn and Moobin Song contributed to this story.

Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters