EN-V concept will be on display in Shanghai

EN-V concept will be on display in Shanghai

General Motors has unveiled in Shanghai its EN-V concept, describing it as a "radical change in mobility to address growing urbanisation issues".

GM said EN-V, an abbreviation of Electric Networked-Vehicle, "maintains the core principle of personal mobility – freedom – while helping remove the motor vehicle from the environmental debate and redefining design leadership. The two-seat electric vehicle, developed with local partner SAIC Motor, was designed to alleviate concerns surrounding traffic congestion, parking availability, air quality and affordability for tomorrow’s cities.

According to the automaker, by 2030, urban areas will be home to more than 60% of the world’s 8bn people putting "tremendous pressure on a public infrastructure that is already struggling to meet the growing demand for transportation and basic services". 

"General Motors [and SAIC], share a common vision for addressing the need for personal mobility through a radical change in personal urban transportation [and] are exploring several solutions for tomorrow’s drivers," the automakers said.  "Among the most promising is a new vehicle form called EN-V".

Three models were unveiled today (24 March) in Shanghai: Jiao (Pride), Miao (Magic) and Xiao (Laugh). The concepts will be displayed from 1 May until 31 October 31 at the SAIC-GM Pavilion at World Expo 2010 Shanghai. The famous Chinese city, a technology showpiece and home to many western expat business people, is expected "to become one of the epicentres for the establishment of personal mobility solutions for the future", according to GM.

“EN-V reinvents the automobile by creating a new vehicle DNA through the convergence of electrification and connectivity. 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 GM China Group president and managing director Kevin Wale.

The EN-V was inspired by the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA) prototype GM developed in conjunction with Segway and announced in April 2009.  It is propelled by electric motors in each of its two driving-mode wheels. This is a technology that GM originally introduced on the Hy-wire concept at the 2006 Paris motor show. The motors provide power for acceleration but also control deceleration and stopping.  Turning radius has been dramatically reduced compared to 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 conventional conductive charging using household power, allowing an EN-V to travel at least 40km (25 miles) 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 usage. 

By combining a Global Positioning System (GPS) with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies, the EN-V can be driven both manually and autonomously.

Its 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 uses 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. 

This combination of sensing technology, wireless communication and GPS-based navigation establishes a technology foundation, pieces of which could migrate from the concept and potentially lead the way to future advanced vehicle safety systems, GM said. 

The ability to communicate with other vehicles and with the infrastructure could dramatically reduce the number of vehicle accidents. Using vehicle-based sensor and camera systems, the EN-V can 'sense' what’s 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, it will decelerate to a slower and safer speed and stop sooner than today’s vehicles.

GM claims to have been a leader in developing autonomous vehicle technology, having worked alongside students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This collaboration created 'The Boss' Chevrolet Tahoe which brought autonomous vehicle operation to life in 2007. The EN-V takes the lessons learned in 'The Boss' and offers mobility to people who could not otherwise operate a vehicle.   

“The EN-V concept represents a major breakthrough in the research that GM has been doing to bring vehicle autonomy to life,” said GM research and development chief Alan Taub. “The building blocks that enable the autonomous capabilities found on the EN-V concept such as lane departure warning, blind zone detection and adaptive cruise control are being used in some... vehicles on the road today.”

EN-V has been designed for the speed and range of today’s urban drivers.  It weighs under 500kg and is about 1.5m long. By comparison, today’s typical car weighs over 1,500kg and is three times as long. Today’s vehicles require over 10 sq m of parking space and are parked over 90% of the time. EN-V’s smaller size and greater manoeuvrability mean the same parking lot can accommodate five times as many EN-Vs as typical automobiles.

GM asked design teams around the world to provide their vision of what future mobility will look like.  Xiao (Laugh) was designed by GM Holden in Australia, while the look of Jiao (Pride) was penned by designers at GM Europe and Miao (Magic) was designed at the GM studio in California. 

Each EN-V has a unique design theme to showcase the flexibility of the propulsion platform.

The body and canopy of EN-V are constructed from carbon fiber, 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.

EN-V’s compact size makes it ideal for use in densely populated cities thanks to its use of advanced safety and propulsion technologies. A simple interface for activating Wi-Fi-based technologies keeps occupants connected to the outside world. 

"In the EN-V we are really showing a new concept, for not just electrified vehicles but a reinvented vehicle experience for mega cities," Taub told reporters today.

"We break the paradigm of how vehicles are driven today."

China is GM's second-largest market after the United States, and it enjoyed a great 2009 when its China sales broke records every month.

GM is readying the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid for showrooms in late 2010. In the 1990s it sold the EV-1 electric commuter car in some parts of the US, and had to deal with protests from loyal drivers deprived of their cars when GM decided to axe the model, end all leases and crush all but a small number of cars that have mostly ended up in museums.