At the 2010 Shanghai Auto Show, General Motors presented a very interesting vision of the future of personal urban transportation called the EN-V (Electric Networked Vehicle). An upright car with a very small footprint, the EN-V was intended to be capable both of autonomous operation and as part of a networked group of vehicles. The EN-V was designed for an environment in which an electric vehicle, with its limited range, could excel. The two-seat electric vehicles were developed to show the possibilities for solving problems of urban traffic congestion, parking and air quality.
While one of the three designs presented in 2010 was a bit odd, looking like an old-fashioned, deep-sea-divers helmet mounted on a Segway, the other two were suitably futuristic. Nonetheless, the original EN-Vs were among of GM’s most talked-about concepts ever.
Normally, when an automaker displays an “advanced concept” it’s to create some buzz and bring in the crowds that hopefully will look at the other iron on the floor after they’ve seen the “Car of Tomorrow.” The vehicle makes the rounds of the auto shows and maybe even goes on the road for a promotional tour, but sooner or later, it’s off to storage or recycling and oblivion. No one expects the car company to actually build the thing as a production model.
Apparently, somebody forgot to tell that to the folks at GM China Group.
At this year’s 2012 Auto China show in Beijing, Kevin Wale, president of the General’s Chinese operation, was not only revisiting the EN-V concept, he was showing a rendering of a newer version and talking about making the EN-V the centerpiece of a feasibility project.
“Our designers and engineers are exploring a range of options for turning the EN-V concept into a reality. The EN-V 2.0 concept would use technologies such as the mobility Internet, electrification and telematics to help change the automotive landscape and ensure a sustainable future for our industry,” Wale told his audience. “The EN-V 2.0 design rendering we are showing today is our vision for the next step.”
“We’re very excited about EN-V 2.0 concept, which embodies the essence of its predecessor but was evolved into a more practical design for real-life use,” Wale continued. “The combination of sensing technology, wireless communication and GPS-based navigation establishes a technology foundation, pieces of which could potentially lead the way to the creation of future advanced vehicle systems.”
EN-V 2.0 concept does away with the front-opening doors of the original designs and adds features such as in-vehicle climate control and storage space. It also sports a new Chevrolet bow tie. In addition, the design brief calls for the car to be capable of driving in all weather and city road conditions.
“We are designing the Chevrolet EN-V 2.0 to have a modular architecture so our engineers would have the flexibility to create a simple vehicle with manual operation or a more complex, fully autonomous and networked vehicle,” said Wale.
For better or worse, the concept’s wireless communication enables a “social network” that can be used by drivers and occupants to communicate with friends or business associates while on the go.
While Wale and his folks are looking at how the EN-V could work in Shanghai, Beijing and other Chinese cities, one can’t help but think of the possibilities available in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and other crowded cities where short trips are the norm and space is at a premium.
It will be interesting to see how this project progresses. IF GM can make it work and make it affordable, they could have a real game-changer on their hands.