The bubble-shaped vehicle you see in the photos is called Hiriko, an urban two-seater EV being collaborated on by the the MIT, Spanish government and Basque businesses. It’s an electric vehicle with a novel take on things – it can be squeezed into a smaller footprint when parked.

The Hiriko features a unique folding design that allows it to be parked in a very limited space – this is accomplished by sliding the back section of the cabin forward and folding the cabin up vertically, resulting in a vehicle that takes up less space than a smart fortwo in the lot.

The design also features a single access door at the front of the vehicle, an advanced steer-by-wire system which removes all mechanical steering components, joystick controls as well as four independent in-wheel motors.

The first Hiriko made its debut earlier this week at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. There’s no mention of range or performance, but it’s known that Axeon will be supplying the two lithium-ion batteries for the homologation prototypes – these will be mounted in parallel, one in each half of the vehicle, with the wheel-mounted motors providing four-wheel steering in addition to four-wheel drive.

Hiriko intends to franchise its production model to enable the vehicles to be locally and sustainably produced by a number of consortia in different markets. The EV, to be built in Vitoria-Gasteiz, will be targeted particularly at large cities, in which it will be available for rental.

The vehicle will be homologated this year, and the prototypes will be tested in cities around the world, with the expectation that it will enter the market sometime in 2013.