Yesterday, GM and Segway unveiled an electric-powered urban vehicle called the Puma. The Puma seats two people, and is said to reach a top speed of 35 miles per hour. The vehicle can go 35 miles before needing a recharge.
Larry Burns, vice president of research and development for GM, said it would cost about 35 cents to charge the Puma’s lithium ion battery system — essentially a larger version of the power system for the Segway Personal Transporter.The Puma balances on two large wheels while driving. For safety, it employs two sets of wheels in the front and back — similar to drag-racing vehicles — to prevent it from tipping over. When it parks, it rests on the front set of wheels.
Deploying the GM OnStar navigation systems and the latest in robot-driving technology, the Puma could potentially drive by itself and even receive messages from other cars to help it avoid potholes. It could drop you off at work, find a place to park and then pick you up at the end of the day at a designated time. The Internet connectivity would allow Web surfing and all the other features offered from portable handheld devices.
Bill Mitchell, an urban-planning guru and professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the time is ripe for new types of electric vehicles that can fit into tiny parking spaces and reduce smog — whether they come from GM or some other company.
“The need is enormous,” he commented. “Cities need small, convenient electric vehicles that reduce congestion. The technology to do that exists now.”
GM isn’t talking about a price for the Puma yet or providing sales targets, but it hopes to have a new prototype ready by the fall for display to the media