April 7, 2009 | 17
Cash-strapped General Motors Corp., which is still mulling what to do with its failing gas-guzzling Hummer Division, today showed its greener side when it unveiled Project PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), a compact, battery-operated two-wheeler for two that it’s developing with Segway, Inc., maker of the upright electric lawn mower–like vehicle that debuted in 2002.
PUMA, which exists only in prototype, resembles a golf cart cut in half: it’s a two-seater that stands upright thanks to dynamic stabilization, which uses an array of angular rate sensors and accelerometers to determine the orientation and motion of the vehicle’s platform. The 300-pound (136-kilogram) vehicle runs on a lithium ion battery and can travel at speeds up to 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour), with a range up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) between recharges. (The Segway Personal Transporter can travel up to 24 miles, or 38 kilometers, on a single charge.)
To raise the coolness factor, GM is promoting the PUMA as mini vehicle with a digital display mounted to the dashboard for viewing speed and battery life. The wireless display can also connect out to the Internet, providing riders with information about traffic.
No word on when PUMA will hit stores or how much it will set you back, but Larry Burns, GM’s research and development vice president, said in a statement that the goal is to crank out a vehicle "one fourth to one third the cost of what you pay to own and operate today’s automobile."
The car giant, whose top exec Rick Wagoner got the boot on March 27 in a bid for federal monies, is also pushing to get its Chevy Volt battery-powered car on the road by November 2010, despite concerns that it will be too expensive, Bloomberg.com reports. (Some estimate the Volt won’t debut until 2011.) GM has not announced a price for the Volt, but industry analysts have estimated it will cost between $30,000 and $40,000.
Images courtesy of Bob Carey for Segway Inc.