I’ve railed on General Motors and Segway in the past for the myriad impracticalities of their tandem Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (P.U.M.A.) prototype. Now they’re at it again, making headlines today by unveiling the first three models in their new Electric Networked Vehicle (EN-V, pronounced "envy") line, including the Jiao, which is Chinese for "Pride."
Someone please tell their marketing department to come up
with a new name for the next iteration of this concept vehicle. Seriously, pinning the hopes for resuscitating the image of your flailing car company on the deadly sins? If I may, here’s a suggestion for the hybrid-electric Suburban you may or may not be considering in the future: The Chevy "Glut-ton-E."
The product launch comes complete with dubious claims about the vehicles. They don’t pollute! They’re small enough to get through traffic!
But until we get electricity production to be non-polluting, these vehicles will effectively still have tailpipes, albeit much further from your city, where you don’t have to worry so much about those unregulated coal ash sumps giving someone else cancer. And how exactly will they bypass traffic — bike lanes?
Snide commentary aside, I think GM is missing a link in the evolution of mobility. How do these things fill a need? They take all the convenience of cars, reduce carrying capacity, and limit the maximum speed to 25 mph. Of course, I’m not arguing that slower speeds in cities are bad, I just don’t understand who’s supposed to be the target market. Someone help me out. Do these products have a practical function?
And I’ll come back to my own bias and state the obvious: Cities already have personal urban mobility devices that don’t pollute.