EN-V will be a doddle to drive for anyone already familiar with a Sedgway.

EN-V will be a doddle to drive for anyone already familiar with a Sedgway.

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This week has been a little different from the DepEd norm - half of it travelling; the other half in Shanghai with General Motors. Subject: personal mobility; practical: hands-on goes at the EN-V and Chevrolet Volt.

The EN-V - essentially several different bodies on top of the same, self-balancing, two-wheel Segway scooter-like battery-electric chassis - has been one of the stars of the GM-SAIC pavilion at Shanghai's Expo 2010.

Today, under the guidance of a GM minder - these are fragile concepts after all, I got a go. With the Segway you stand up and lean in the direction you want to go. With an EN-V, you enter one of the two side-by-side seats via a front opening door, decide who's driving and position the game-controller that passes for a steering wheel on the appropriate side (it stows between the seats), flick the switch to shut the door and then press 'balance' which tilts the little machine back level from its loading position.

Then you press the paddles each side of the controller and off you go. Both fully forward is full steam ahead, varying the positions on each side gives you steering. Push just one forward and you turn in your own radius so no need for reversing though that is possible. Speed is about on a par with a golf cart but these are just the start; GM envisages these driving themselves by 2030 using sophisticated collision avoidance radar so that traffic lights are no longer needed at intersections and being parked at night in pods hung off the side of city buildings. We'll see if the dream evolves.

Also on the agenda was my long-anticipated first drive in the Volt, the range-extender hybrid which can do about 50 miles (80km) on a fully charged battery and 490km (300 miles) more with the petrol engine recharging the li-ion cells which can also be topped up in just four hours using Europe's 240-volt domestic mains supply (10 hours on the US 120v system).

This is a nicely finished, practical and spacious five-door hatchback (a body style chosen for aerodynamic efficiency, I was told) that is, well, just like an ordinary car to drive save for the lack of combustion engine noise until you'be used up all the battery juice. During my drive, the hard-used Volt's petrol engine did in fact cut in but I did not notice as it is extremely quiet and well insulated with little NVH evident. In electric mode, it is polished and 'normal' as a Nissan Leaf and that will be its appeal - it may be packed with technology but it's no different to drive than a similar D-segment fossil fuel car. The I'm-kinder-to-the-environment halo is an option...

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor

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