It's been a big morning for General Motors, with news coming left and right from its big media event in Detroit to celebrate Chevrolet's 100th birthday.
In addition to confirming the 2013 Chevy Spark minicar and its all-electric Spark EV model, GM has announced a new Trailblazer sport-utility vehicle, a ZL1 Camaro convertible, a family of new and highly fuel-efficient three- and four-cylinder gasoline engines, and various other models.
But one announcement got a bit lost. GM also said it would continue to evolve its EN-V autonomous electric urban two-seat personal transportation vehicle, and held out the possibility that EN-Vs could be launched in demonstration projects around the globe to test them out in real-world conditions.
The reason behind the little pod car is simple: Within 20 years, more than 6 of every 10 people on the planet will live in urban areas, many of them packed megacities of 10 million people or more.
Despite the ongoing human demand for the freedom provided by individual vehicles, there simply isn't room there for what we think of as a "car." Hence, the Electric Networked-Vehicle (EN-V) concept. It's envisioned to have an electric range of 25 miles (40 km), fully adequate for most urban trips.
The opening sentence of the release is tough sledding, though:
Work on the next-generation EN-V concept vehicle, representing General Motors’ vision to meet the growing demand for safe, connected, zero-emissions personal transportation could participate in pilot demonstration programs in megacities around the world to determine real-world practicality.
In fact, our copy desk isn't entirely sure that's a sentence at all, as written.
2010 GM EN-V Concept
Reading further, the story boils down to, "Yes, we're continuing to evolve and test this thing, but it's pretty far out in the future, so don't expect to see 'em locally any time soon. Oh, and they're not really for the States, either."
The new version of the EN-V adds some things that users are going to demand in their cars, no matter how small or autonomous they may be. Those include climate control, space to store your personal goods, and all-weather traction control--especially important in a two-wheeled self-stabilizing vehicle.
The EN-V concept was first introduced last year at the Shanghai Auto Expo, developed with GM's Chinese partner company.
They're based on working prototypes first shown in GM's Project PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility). Those vehicles combined electric drive with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, along with Segway’s dynamic stabilization technology, and were first shown at the 2009 New York Auto Show.
One other thing, as the late Mr. Jobs used to say: There's now a little bowtie on the front of the latest EN-V concept, meaning that if and when these vehicles roll out, they too will be called Chevrolets.
“For 100 years, [Chevy] has been focused on making advanced technology that improves customers’ lives accessible and affordable," said Chris Perry, Chevrolet's vice president for global marketing and strategy, so "the Chevrolet EN-V will continue that tradition."
This is definitely not your father's... errrr ... Chevrolet.