Meet GM’s new EN-V , the transporter for 2030 is sleek, electric & automated

March 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm

(Sources: Wired; RTTNews, Associated Press, The Detroit News GM Press Release)

Image Courtesy: GM

General Motors always dreams big, no matter how much money they have in their bank account.  Now that Uncle Sam’s treasury is backing up the financial future,  GM continues its tradition of dreaming big and the latest outcome of this is 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 after a long day at work. . Seriously.

Today, GM unveiled a trio of electric “urban mobility vehicles,” built with help from the über-geeks at Segway, today in Shanghai. They’re called Electric Networked Vehicles (EN-V) and they’re designed for cities bursting at the seams with traffic.  The EN-V, pronounced “envy,” is GM’s latest effort to burnish its credentials as a future-focused, environmentally friendly company and shed its image as the bastion of the gas guzzling Hummer. The automaker is in the process of winding down Hummer after a deal collapsed to sell it to a Chinese heavy equipment maker. The helmet-shaped two-seater vehiclesunveiled today in Shanghai will be now showcased at world expo 2010 to be held in Shanghai starting May 1 through October 31. The pavilion will be shared by GM with its Chinese partner SAIC Motor Corp.  There will be three models on display in Shanghai:

  • Red – Jiao, or Pride – Created by designers at GM Europe, the vehicle was influenced by bullet trains and Chinese opera masks.
  • Black – Miao, or Magic –  Sculpted by designers at GM’s Advanced Design Studio in California and influenced by the consumer electronics industry’s sleek, masculine looks.
  • Blue –  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.

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

Here are some interesting nuggets gleaned from the above sources:

  • To that end, the two-seater concepts 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.
  • The 1.5 meter by 1.5 meter (about 5 foot by 5 foot) EN-V appears to build on GM’s earlier work with Segway Inc. in developing the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA) concept vehicle. It will use the same types of battery cells as the Segway and the same battery supplier, Valence Technology Inc.
  • The propulsion technique employed in the prototype was, however, introduced earlier by GM on its Hy-wire concept, introduced at the Paris Motor Show 2006.  The forward-thinking concepts build upon we saw last year in New York.
  • Powered by Lithium-ion batteries and enriched with capabilities like dramatically smaller turning radius, the zero-emission vehicle is designed to travel at least 40 kilometers on a single charge.
  • GM notes that the operating costs are one-fifth to one-sixth the price of a conventional motor vehicle and one-third to one-fourth the operating cost of a passenger car.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Click here for some interesting pictures and a detailed scoop.  If you are interested in reading more about the concept and have the time to enjoy some cool videos that demonstrate the technology and vision, click here.

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Paradigm Shift Does G.M.’s P.U.M.A. Rethink Transportation?

April 8, 2009 at 12:13 pm
G.M.'s P.U.M.A. Concept

The Project P.U.M.A. prototype on 18th Street in Manhattan.

 (Source: Wheels Blog – New York Times)

When General Motors unveiled Project P.U.M.A. in New York on Tuesday (with partner Segway), it was showing not so much a vehicle as a vision for a new transportation system. And that’s high risk, high reward, because as much as new concepts are needed, they’re excruciatingly hard to actually put in place. Our highways are haunted with unfulfilled visions, from electric station-cars to statewide hydrogen-refueling networks.

The P.U.M.A. is a two-wheeled, two-seat gyroscopically balanced urban transit device with a top speed of 35 miles an hour and the potential to be remotely operated. Toyota has also shown a fanciful personal mobility option, called the i-Swing, a single-seater pod on wheels, with joystick controls.

So far, the P.U.M.A. concept is receiving cautiously optimistic reviews. “It’s exactly the right vision, and it’s the kind of thinking we need desperately in transportation,” said Dan Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis and coauthor (with Deborah Gordon) of “Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability.”

Mr. Sperling points out that the Low-Speed Vehicle (L.S.V.) category, limited in most states to 35 miles an hour, was created by the Department of Transportation in the 1990s to respond to the type of technology that G.M. is now talking about.

The L.S.V. category, which includes battery-powered neighborhood electric vehicles, has been slow to take off. But Mr. Sperling said he saw those vehicles, including the Chrysler GEM, gaining popularity around Davis for use in retirement and gated communities, military bases and office parks. “We need more diversity of vehicle types,” he said. “There’s no reason everything has to be 3,000-plus-pound cars and trucks. But for this to take off it needs one extra step to integrate the vehicles into the broader network of roads.”


For David J. Friedman, research director for the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, the P.U.M.A. has possibilities, though what he called “the massive monitoring and managing of traffic to minimize congestion and maximize road usage” has been tried before; the general category is called Intelligent Transportation Systems. G.M. experimented with hands-free Buicks on automated highways in 1997, but the efforts were thwarted by high costs and driver confusion.

“We need to design our cities around something other than two- or three-ton vehicles,” said Mr. Friedman. “The data suggests that by 2030 half of the built environment in the U.S. will be new. What if we designed new suburban towns with integrated shopping so you could walk, bike or use a P.U.M.A. to get around, with conventional vehicles only for longer trips?”


Click here to read the entire article

Project P.U.M.A – GM’s tango with Segway births an awesome personal mobility platform for urban environments

April 7, 2009 at 3:12 pm

(Source: Jalopnik)

P.U.M.A delivers 35 mile range, 35 MPH top speed, all on 35 cents of electricity 

GM and Segway have teamed up before the New York Auto Show on what they’re calling the PUMA project. The prototype vehicle was exclusively unveiled today on the Today Show. It’s no April Fool’s joke.  PUMA stands for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility and the prototype running around outside NBC’s Today Show this morning is an experimental prototype of a vehicle Larry Burns, GM’s vice president of research and development, and strategic planning, claims we’ll see a roadable version by January.

The interesting thing here isn’t necessarily the size – barely wide enough to fit two skinny urban dwellers — the electric powertrain — 35 mile range, 35 MPH top speed, all on 35 cents of electricity — or the added mobility it provides – not much more than a bicycle and significantly less than a gas-powered scooter — but it’s vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Not only does the P.U.M.A. talk to other units, but it can detect the presence of other types of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists; using that info to avoid collisions. It can also join together with other P.U.M.A.s to form high-speed (if you can call 35 MPH high speed) cross-city trains capable of using special lanes for uninterrupted travel.


Jalopnik’s review of the PUMA after taking it for a spin goes like this:  

The first impression is of how small and simple the PUMA is. There’s barely room for two full-sized adults to sit side-by-side within its roll cage and inside, under the rough plexi windshield there’s only one control: the aircraft-like yoke.

Mounted on that yoke are two buttons; one to start things up and one to shut it down. Hit the one on the right and the cabin lifts up off the ground, balancing completely level. Move the yoke forward and the cabin rotates in front of the center of gravity, initiating forward motion. Push forward for more acceleration, pull backward to shift the cabin rearwards to decelerate or come to a stop. Twist the yoke left or right to steer. Do so at a standstill and one wheel will roll forward, the other backwards, spinning you in place. That’s it, it couldn’t be simpler. In fact, it works just like a Segway, albeit a giant one that goes 10 MPH faster and lets two people sit down out of the weather.

Riding along in complete silence, sliding fore and aft is a bit eerie. The seats aren’t connected to the floor plan, meaning your feet slide out from under the seat when the cabin shifts foreword and vice versa in reverse. That feeling of connection to the movement helps orient passengers to what’s going on beneath them.

The simplicity of the control system – immediately intuitive – hints at the intended use of the PUMA. You wouldn’t need to be competent behind the wheel of a car to use one, it’s more like operating a video game. Perfect for today’s youth gone wild.

Segway just released the following video of Project P.U.M.A. in action (via The College Driver!).  Check it out::