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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

With EN-V, GM plugs into urban electric future

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With EN-V, GM plugs into urban electric future

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

General Motors Co. will unveil a two-seat electric prototype vehicle in May at the World Expo in Shanghai that represents the automaker's solution to urban congestion, traffic crashes and pollution 20 years from now.

The upright, two-wheeled vehicle, called Electric Networked Vehicle, or EN-V for short, is essentially a pod-shaped electric skateboard powered by a Segway Personal Transporter.

GM has built 12 prototypes of three models that can be driven or operated remotely and the vehicles are one possible way to solve growing demands for transportation, parking availability, air quality and affordability.

"We don't want a scenario in which people don't choose to buy a vehicle because there is no way to move around," said Chris Borroni-Bird, GM's director of advanced technology vehicle concepts.

GM is studying personal transportation alternatives to combat congestion, which will worsen.

There will be an estimated 1.2 billion vehicles worldwide in 2030. That's up from 844 million three years ago, according to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.

People living in major cities will have a more difficult time commuting because in 20 years, 60 percent of the world's population will live in urban areas, according to GM.

In major cities, 30 percent of fuel is wasted while drivers hunt for parking spots, which adds to the cost associated with operating vehicles.

The EN-Vs, which have a top speed of about 25 miles per hour and a range of 25 miles, are powered by small lithium-ion batteries. GM envisions the vehicles would be equipped with sensors, cameras and global positioning systems so they can communicate with each other, avoid crashes and be operated autonomously.

GM has not disclosed the price tag, but said the EN-V would cost one-sixth to one-fifth the cost of a conventional motor vehicle.

There will be three models on display in Shanghai:

• Jiao, or Pride. Created by designers at GM Europe, the vehicle was influenced by bullet trains and Chinese opera masks.

• Miao, or Magic, was sculpted by designers at GM's Advanced Design Studio in California and influenced by the consumer electronics industry's sleek, masculine looks.

• Xiao, or Laugh. Created by GM Holden's designers in Australia, who took a more lighthearted approach to the vehicle's "gumball blue" paint and nautical design.

The vehicle's autonomous ability also lets drivers and occupants communicate with others while the EN-V is operating. For example, drivers in two different EN-Vs could hold a video conference with each other while commuting to work.

"This is one approach," said Clay Dean, director of advanced design for GM North America. "We're not saying it's this design. We're saying it's a combination of electric and networking."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100324/AUTO01/3240326/1148/auto01/With-EN-V--GM-plugs-into-urban-electric-future#ixzz0j62job0Z

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Interesting, but the problem as always with tiny vehicles is safety. To build it strong enough to not crumple up & squish the passengers in a wreck generally means a lot of heavy materials, which negates fuel savings. It's also not nearly as safe to have a small vehicle with an impenetrable passenger cabin but no real crumple zones, compared to a larger vehicle with crumple zones. As long as there are significantly larger vehicles on the road, I have a hard time seeing where something this size can be truly safe.

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