Elec­tric dreams drive ur­ban power shift

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE - Neil McDon­ald

YOU are looking at to­mor­row’s Holden city car. This dinky ‘‘gum­ball blue’’ two-seater, called the Xiao, was de­signed by GM Holden in Port Mel­bourne to show­case 21st cen­tury think­ing.

It is one of three Gen­eral Motors con­cepts des­tined for this year’s World Expo in Shang­hai.

Called EN-V for elec­tric net­worked ve­hi­cle, the three car­bon fi­bre com­muter cars use hitech elec­tron­ics to in­ter­act with other driv­ers and the road net­work.

For­mer GM Holden ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Wale, now pres­i­dent and manag­ing di­rec­tor of GM China, boldly says the con­cepts ‘‘rein­vent the au­to­mo­bile’’.

‘‘It pro­vides an ideal so­lu­tion for ur­ban mo­bil­ity that en­ables fu­ture driv­ing to be free from petroleum and emis­sions, free from con­ges­tion and ac­ci­dents,’’ he says.

The Xiao, which means laugh, will be joined by the Jiao and Miao.

The Jiao, which means pride, was penned by GM’s Euro­pean de­sign­ers and the Miao, which means magic, came out of GM’s ad­vance de­sign stu­dio in Cal­i­for­nia.

The cars have evolved from an elec­tric pro­to­type de­vel­oped last year by Seg­way.

Each is pow­ered by two lithium ion elec­tric motors in each of its driv­ing wheels that give the cars a range of 40km.

They can be recharged us­ing a con­ven­tional house­hold power out­let and can search the elec­tric­ity grid to find out the most suit­able off-peak time to recharge.

Us­ing drive-by-wire tech­nol­ogy, the elec­tric motors not only power the car but act as brakes.

At just 1.5m long, they are even shorter than a tiny Smart fortwo and have a foot­print about a third of the size of a small hatch­back.

Ex­ten­sive use of car­bon fi­bre and other hi-tech ma­te­ri­als have kept weight to just 500kg.

A global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem, car-to­car com­mu­ni­ca­tion and dis­tance-sens­ing tech­nolo­gies al­low them to se­lect the best route while ex­ter­nal sen­sors and cam­eras mean it can re­act quickly to ob­sta­cles or changes in con­di­tions.

Each takes a dif­fer­ent view of motoring. The Miao’s sleek looks and LED lighting takes its cues from house­hold elec­tron­ics while the Jiao draws its in­flu­ences from bul­let trains and Chi­nese opera masks.

Hi-tech: Xiao has a range of 40km.

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