GM, Segway team up on 200-mpg 2-seater
By James R. Healey, USA TODAY
General Motors (GM) is teaming with Segway, the scooter company, to develop a battery-powered vehicle to cut urban congestion and pollution.
The companies plan to announce the partnership Tuesday in New York, where they are testing a prototype of the partially enclosed, two-seat, two-wheel scooter. The venture is called Project PUMA, for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility.
PHOTOS: GM, Segway unveil 2-wheel prototype
The companies hope to recruit partners, such as cities or colleges, to set up Puma travel lanes, like bicycle lanes. They'd be used to test the vehicles and their on-board wireless communicators designed to keep them safely apart and even operate them while drivers do other tasks.
The Pumas also could be operated manually. Not intended for highway use, they would hit about 35 miles per hour and go up to 35 miles on a charge.
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"There's no technology that has to be invented here. It's really just putting the pieces together," says Chris Borroni-Bird, director of the project for GM.
Nonetheless it could take years to get to market. "It's not going on sale anytime" soon, he said.
The partnership with Segway began about 18 months ago, predating GM's emergency survival loans from the government.
GM is developing the electronic wireless systems for safe, autonomous operation. Segway is responsible for the self-balancing, electric, two-wheel chassis. The prototype has "training wheels" front and rear, helpful at stoplights. Pumas would use lithium-ion batteries, like those Segway uses in its stand-up scooters.
Though being unveiled in New York, the Pumas might appeal most in densely packed cities in places such as India and China, Borroni-Bird says. There they would seem a big step up from bicycles. Americans, who are used to cars, might not take them as seriously.
He forecasts energy consumption equivalent to 200 miles per gallon of gasoline. That falls to about 70 mpg adding in fuel to generate electricity used to charge its battery.