US vehicle manufacturer General Motors (GM) and its strategic partner, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), have lifted the curtain on its concept electric networked vehicle, or EN-V, aimed at the urban market.
The argument driving the development of the EN-V is the fact that 60% of the world’s eight-billion people will live in urban areas by 2030, which GM and SAIC expect will place “tremendous pressure on public infra- structure that is already struggling to meet the growing demand for transportation and basic services”.
The EN-V is a two-seat electric vehicle, with three models unveiled in Shanghai, China, in March. They are named Jiao (Pride), Miao (Magic) and Xiao (Laugh).
These concept vehicles will be showcased from May to October at the SAIC-GM Pavilion, at World Expo 2010 Shanghai.
EN-V 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”, says GM China Group president and MD Kevin Wale.
The EN-V concept is inspired by the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility prototype, which was developed by GM in conjunction with Segway, and which debuted in April 2009.
It is propelled by electric motors in each of its two driving-mode wheels.
This is technology that GM introduced originally on the Hy-wire concept at the 2006 Paris Motor Show.
The motors provide power not only for acceleration, but also for controlled deceleration and stopping.
The turning radius is smaller than that of today’s conventional vehicles, enabling EN-V to ‘turn on a dime’.
Zero-emission power for the motors is provided by lithium-ion batteries.
Recharging can be done by using household power, allowing the EN-V to travel 40 km on a single charge.
EN-V can also improve the efficiency of the public’s electric infrastructure since the vehicle has the capability of communicating with the electric grid to determine the best time to recharge, based on overall power use.
By combining the vehicle’s global positioning system with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies, the EN-V concept can be driven both manually and autonomously.
The vehicle’s autonomous operating capability offers the promise of reducing traffic congestion by allowing the EN-V to automatically select the fastest route, based on real-time traffic information.
The concept also leverages wireless communications to enable a ‘social network’ that can be used by drivers and occupants to communicate with friends or business associates while on the go.
GM and SAIC believe the ability to communicate with other vehicles and with public infrastructure could dramatically reduce the number of vehicle accidents.
Using vehicle-based sensor and camera systems, the EN-V can ‘sense’ what is around it, allowing the vehicle to react quickly to obstacles or changes in driving conditions. For example, if a pedestrian steps out in front of the vehicle, the vehicle will deceler- ate and stop sooner than the commercial vehicle.
The EN-V weighs less than 500 kg, and is about 1,5 m in length.
Its smaller size means the same parking lot can accommodate five times as many EN-Vs as typical motor vehicles.
For its debut, GM had design teams around the world provide their vision of what future mobility would look like.
Xiao was designed by GM Holden’s design team in Australia, while the look of Jiao was penned by designers at GM Europe, and Miao was designed at the General Motors Advanced Design Studio, in the US.
Xiao offers a more light-hearted appeal, with its gumball blue paint and nautical- inspired design.
Miao takes most of its design cues from the consumer electronics industry, as evidenced by its sleek, masculine looks.
Designers also used Miao to display innovative lighting solutions.
With its clean lines and bright paintwork, Jiao takes its design influence from bullet trains and Chinese opera masks.
The body and canopy of the EN-V are con- structed from carbon fibre, custom-tinted Lexan and acrylic, materials that are more commonly used in race cars, military airplanes and spacecraft because of their strength and lightweight characteristics.