"All the World's a Stage We Pass Through" R. Ayana

Monday 12 April 2010

Futuristic Electric Pod Car

Futuristic Electric Pod Car



General Motors sees a future where people navigate crowded cities in big Segways that look kinda like a Dyson vacuum cleaner and can drive you home when you’ve had one too many.
Seriously. The General unveiled a trio of electric “urban mobility vehicles,” built with help from the ├╝ber-geeks at Segway, today in Shanghai. They’re called Electric Networked Vehicles and they’re designed for cities bursting at the seams with traffic.
Shanghai is the perfect place to show the funky runabouts because China is the largest automobile market on the planet. A lot of thought is going into figuring out how all those people buying all those cars will get around. Sixty percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030 and there will be 2 billion cars on the road. Automakers are looking for ways to build cars that pollute less and take up less space.
To that end, the two-seater concepts that GM rolled out today in Shanghai with its Chinese partner Shanghai Automotive Industry are about one-sixth the size of a conventional car. They’re made of lightweight materials like carbon fiber and weigh just 1,000 pounds apiece. GM says you can squeeze five of them into a single parking space.
“It provides an ideal solution for urban mobility that enables future driving to be free from petroleum and emissions, free from congestion and accidents, and more fun and fashionable than ever before,” said Kevin Wale, head of the GM China Group.
Fashionable? Um, OK.


The trio of mirco-sized concepts have cool Chinese names: The red one is called Jiao (Pride), the blue one is Xiao (Laugh) and the black one is Miao (Magic). GM says the names “emphasize the enjoyable nature of future transportation.”
The forward-thinking concepts build upon the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility concept we saw last year in New York. That awkward-looking EV resembled an electric rickshaw, and few took it seriously. It probably didn’t help that the company had just filed for Chapter 11.
GM went back into the workshop and emerged with slicker, sleeker vehicles designed at its studios in Australia (the blue one), California (black) and Europe (red). They’re all the same under that futuristic skin and ride on a common “skateboard” chassis that carries the electric drivetrain. There’s a motor in each wheel and a lithium-ion battery. It’s got “dynamic stabilization technology” so it can balance on two wheels, and GM says it can “literally turn on a dime.” It also says the vehicles have a range of 25 miles and a top speed of 25 mph, which it says is more than adequate for daily city driving.
Because this is the future we’re talking about, the EN-Vs are super-connected. They’ll use GPS, distance-sensing technology and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to ease congestion and reduce the risk of accidents. GM says the vehicles can “sense” what’s around them and react quickly to obstacles or changes in driving conditions. All the gadgetry, which builds on things like adaptive cruise control you already see in cars, means you can drive them or they can drive themselves. Just the thing for getting home after a night on the town.
“The EN-V concept represents a major breakthrough in the research that GM has been doing to bring vehicle autonomy to life,” said Alan Taub, global VPof research and development.


The EN-Vs are just concepts, and it seems doubtful we’ll see them on the road anytime soon, if ever. But production isn’t the point of vehicles like this. The point is to consider what’s possible and reimagine how we get around.
“The future of how we move around in urban areas like Shanghai can combine the best of personal mobility and public transit,” Taub said. “There is a better solution and it is called EN-V.  It demonstrates that we have both the knowledge and the ability right now to create a way to move people that not only ensures a ‘better city’ but also offers people a ‘better life.’”
The vehicles featured at the World Expo 2010 that started May 1 in Shanghai.






Images: General Motors

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