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by Tim Beissmann

An Australian-designed futuristic concept vehicle has joined two other General Motors creations at an unveiling in Shanghai.

The EN-V models (pronounced ‘envy’ and representing “Electric Networked-Vehicle”) have been developed in collaboration with personal transportation pioneers Segway as compact two-seaters for the cities of the future.

The Holden-designed model is called “Xiao” (Laugh) and offers “a more light-hearted appeal with its ‘gumball blue’ paint and nautical-inspired design”.

Jiao (Pride) was designed by GM in Europe and is influenced by “bullet trains and Chinese opera masks”.

Miao (Magic) was designed at GM’s Advanced Design Studio in California as a more masculine, “consumer electronics” concept, with extensive use of LED lighting.

Driven by electric motors in each of the two driving-mode wheels and powered by lithium-ion batteries, the sub-500kg, 1.5m long carbon-fibre EN-V has a range of 40km and can be charged from a normal household outlet.

Drive-by-wire features keep it compact and manoeuvrable, allowing for five EN-Vs to fit in a standard parking space. It has a top speed of 40km/h, some 20km/h faster than the average speed of many city roads around the world.

But its best party trick is its autonomous mode, where the car combines GPS technology with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing systems to drive itself.

GM says its autonomous operating capability promises reduced traffic congestion, as the EN-V automatically selects the fastest route based on real-time traffic information.

It says the camera and sensor systems in the EN-V could dramatically reduce the number of vehicle accidents and could potentially lead the way to future advanced safety systems.

Global vice president of GM research and development, Alan Taub, said that with 4.8 billion people living in urban areas by 2030, current transportation methods could only be so effective.

“There is a better solution and it is called EN-V. It demonstrates that we have both the knowledge and the ability right now to create a way to move people that not only ensures a ‘better city’ but also offers people a ‘better life’,” he said.

GM China Group President, Kevin Wale, went even further.

“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,” Mr Wale said.

Holden Design Director Tony Stolfo said the EN-V project was carried out by many young designers within the Holden studio whose talents will be recognised on the world stage.

“This work has really broken the mould of the projects we undertake within the Holden design studio,” Mr Stolfo said.

“The fact that our young designers were able to run with this project and develop it to such a high level really speaks volumes for the advanced design capabilities within Australia.

“It has meant moving away from designing the traditional elements of a motor vehicle to develop new themes and technologies that might someday define the way we live our lives.

“Much of what we have learned during this project will help us in our ongoing efforts to meet the many transport challenges associated with a growing population.”

A multi-disciplined team within the Holden studio worked on the EN-V concept over 15 months. Design Manager Aaron Deneweth oversaw the project and Lead Designer Frank Rudolph was responsible for the final exterior theme.

A group led by Chief Designer of Colour and Trim, Sharon Gauci, worked alongside all three studios to develop the colours and materials required for each EN-V concept.

The three EN-V concepts will be showcased at the SAIC-GM pavilion at World Expo 2010 Shanghai from May 1 to October 31.




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