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General Motors perfecting electric, networked, two-seater car


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General Motors perfecting electric, networked, two-seater car

Christina Rogers / The Detroit News

General Motors Co. believes it's got the right car in mind for one population segment that typically shuns driving — the city dweller. It's electric, wirelessly connected and able to squeeze through traffic with its compact two-seater design.

The Detroit-based automaker calls the concept car EN-V, or "envy" and its target market is buyers in big congested cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.

"This vehicle is going to be increasingly needed in the markets where we hope to grow our business," said Chris Borroni-Bird, GM's director of advance vehicle concepts.

China, in particular, has been a major growth market for GM and its joint venture partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. GM and SAIC also have teamed up to sell vehicles in India, where many cities have population densities equal to or greater than Manhattan. China and India are two of the world's fastest-growing car markets.

GM debuted the concept car in March at the 2010 Shanghai Expo and will bring it to the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas in January.

The EN-V, which stands for Electric Networked Vehicle, also will make an appearance next year at the Detroit Auto Show. So far, GM has built 10 EN-Vs for demonstration.

A real production model, however, is probably more than a decade away and is likely to first appear overseas, rather than in the United States where most motorists travel by highway, Borroni-Bird said. The car only has two wheels and is small enough to fit several of them in one traditional parking space.

"It's really a step up from a bike," he said, of the EN-V. "We think it will be less expensive than a car but more practical to move around in."

The car has two main features that give it an edge in urban areas — a small battery for electric-only driving and the ability to communicate wirelessly with other vehicles.

Electric cars are better for traveling short-distances and air quality in crowded cities, Borroni-Bird said. And GM has equipped the EN-V with specialized technology developed by its OnStar subsidiary that allows it to talk to other cars, anticipate dangers and scan blocks for available parking spaces.

All this will help avoid congestion, Borroni-Bird said, because accidents and people circling for parking often cause major traffic holdups in big cities.

"These vehicles are going to be more like handheld PDAs, as opposed to today's desktops," he added, noting that they'll be highly mobile, yet connected to a wireless network.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101205/AUTO01/12050308/General-Motors-perfecting-electric--networked--two-seater-car#ixzz17LFbQpHv

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