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GM envisions future city car with EN-V concepts

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 00:00:00 -0700

The city car of the future will seat two people, run on electric power and communicate with other vehicles to reach a destination faster while automatically avoiding traffic tie-ups and crashes.

General Motors, working with electric-scooter maker Segway, has developed three concepts tailored toward that vision of future transportation. The Electric Networked Vehicle, or EN-V, concepts go on display May 1 at the World Expo in Shanghai.

The EN-V concepts are a next-generation vehicle from the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility prototype that GM debuted at the New York auto show a year ago.

There are three concepts, one each from GM's design studios in Australia, Europe and the United States.

The concept from Holden in Australia is named Xiao, or Laugh, and is painted blue. The U.S. concept, Miao, or Magic, is dark silver and used light-emitting diode accent lighting. The Europe concept, Jiao, or Pride, is red. Its design is influenced by bullet trains.

The pod-looking vehicles measure about 60 inches long, 56 inches wide and range from 65 inches to 69 inches tall. The weight averages 900 pounds, with half of that concentrated in the chassis platform. The bodies are built from lightweight plastic and carbon fiber.

GM says an EN-V is about one-third the length of a traditional car. A parking lot could hold 10 times the number of EN-Vs as regular cars.

All of the EN-V concepts are powered by a Segway powertrain--brushless direct-current wheel motors that provide propulsion and braking. GM says the EN-V can reach a top speed of 25 mph and travel 25 miles on a full charge of its lithium-ion battery pack. The battery is recharged by plugging in to standard household current.

A key to making all these EN-Vs work in dense urban environments is an array of sensors and wireless communication. GM says the EN-V is constantly talking with traffic-management networks and control signals to automatically find the most efficient route to the destination. Sensing technologies--such as GPS, lane departure and radar distance control used in today's vehicles--let the EN-V platoon, or travel in tight groups to maximize road capacity without crashing. Sensors would detect if a pedestrian steps in the way and automatically brake the EN-V to a stop.

By Dale Jewett