Marketplace Scratch Pad

It’s better than a smelly cab

Scott Jagow Apr 7, 2009

What do you get when cross GM with Segway? A gas-guzzling pogo stick? No, the answer is a wheelchair-ish, golf carty two-wheeled electric people mover. Today, the companies will show off their PUMA vehicle. PUMA stands for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility.

Here’s what it looks like:

The PUMA uses a lithium-ion battery, goes 35 miles per hour and has a range of 35 miles. GM hasn’t put a price tag on the PUMA, but said it would go for a third or a quarter of the cost of a regular car. It’s supposed to be to market by 2012. Here’s GM’s vision:

It could allow people to travel around cities more quickly, safely, quietly and cleanly – and at a lower total cost. The vehicle also enables design creativity, fashion, fun and social networking.

Social networking? What, do these things Tweet back and forth?

Sort of, yes. GM plans to put in vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems and transponders. Theoretically, this would allow the PUMAs to regulate traffic, not crash into each other and drive themselves.

The Today Show test drove a prototype this morning. After riding around in a circle for a while, Meredith Vieira looked like she needed an airplane bag, but besides that, we learned that the PUMA is still a work in progress. It could eventually be enclosed for cold weather, for example.

It’s easy to mock GM about this, but at least the company is looking in the right direction. Under certain conditions, I might buy one. Used. On Craigslist.

Just think if GM hadn’t helped kill the EV1 where the company might be today in the electric vehicle business. So much competition out there now.

By the way, did you see that the guy who made “Who Killed the Electric Car?” is working on a sequel?

It’s called Revenge of the Electric Car.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.