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BAIC E150 EV Electric Cars

Don’t believe the hype; the electric car is alive and well. In spite of the pop-culture presumption that General Motors pulled the plug, no pun intended, an electric-car market is doing reasonably well in the U.S. With gas prices volatile and trending upwards, things will probably get even better.

The catch is that the electric cars available from Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) aren’t exactly cars as we know them. One look at the bubble-shaped GEM e2, in fact, and many people will say, It’s a golf cart! It may be small, narrow and speed-limited, but don’t call it a golf cart!

Not only do the folks at GEM bristle to hear it, but a number of features set the e2 apart from golf carts: a real suspension, lights and turn signals, seatbelts, windshield wipers, and full weather protection. The GEM e2 is very much a proper car; it’s just got a more limited purpose than most gasoline-powered automobiles.

As a neighborhood electric vehicle, the fully-electric GEM is designed for low-speed applications, preferably on smooth roads. Unlike the similarly diminutive smart fortwo, the GEM e2 won’t keep up with freeway traffic. It’s at its best in large sprawling suburban areas with many low-speed roads. Its top speed is only 26mph, so any roads with higher speed limits are a potentially dangerous prospect. Though you may have to go a bit out of your way to make distance, purring quietly through residential streets is a great deal more entertaining than cruising with traffic at 45mph anyway.

The egg-like greenhouse’s large windows make visibility excellent, the better for sharing the road with bicycles, pedestrians, and the odd kid chasing a soccer ball. Folks can’t hear the e2 coming, after all. Once they see it, though, the reactions are immediate.

Kids point; adults nudge each other. What kind of gas mileage do you get? is usually the first question, as folks don’t realize that it’s an electric car. Though GEM has been around for a decade now and produced over 35,000 cars, these little runabouts aren’t common in most areas, metro Detroit included.

On the street, the e2 stands out immediately, thanks to a high-roofed, egg-shaped body that bears a passing resemblance to Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. The body is made of thermoplastic and composites, with full-wrap doors, automotive glass and sliding windows that retract into the doors to let the breeze in. The halogen headlights, turn signals and an applique grille give the e2 a recognizably automotive face, while the front wheels and suspension components are ignored. At the rear, the e2 features a small diamond-plate cargo bed with stake sides that will hold up to 150 pounds of cargo.

The full GEM model range includes the passenger-carrying e4 and super-stretch e6, which allow four and six passengers respectively.

Inside, the GEM has a radio, a heater, and even a small blower fan on the dash. Molded-foam seats offer sufficient padding for short trips; it’s not as though anyone’s going to be road-tripping in an e2, after all. The body is devoid of heavy sound-deadening material or carpet, so the ride unfortunately draws more of those nasty comparisons to golf carts. Unlike a golf cart, the e2 has automotive controls however, with a standard accelerator and brake pedal. The ride is agreeable, though a combination of stiff springs and light weight mean that the e2 gets tossed around by bumps that would be absorbed by larger vehicles.

The 12-inch tires are street-rated and durable enough to contend with road speeds and debris. The front suspension consists of dual A-arms and rack and pinion steering makes the e2 reasonably responsive at low speeds, though it feels top-heavy in turns. The narrow track means that this isn’t a performance vehicle by any stretch.


The four-wheel hydraulic brakes bring things to a stop without drama, and also charge the batteries.

It doesn’t look like it, but within its speed range, the e2 will happily keep up with traffic. The heavy-duty DC motor spools up fast, providing up to 12 horsepower, and acceleration is on par with full-sized cars. The motor is powered by six 12-volt flooded-electrolyte batteries that give it a range of about 35 miles. GEM uses a two-speed transmission, with a Low mode that’s intended for gravel or other rough surfaces, and a High mode for pavement travel. Top speed in Low is 15mph; High allows the e2 to stretch its figurative legs, as best it can, up to its modest top speed.

Recharging is as easy as plugging the e2’s on-board 72-volt charger into a standard household outlet.

Going green doesn’t have the glamour of rolling in the latest Lexus, but I had a grand time figuring out how to navigate the e2 around the suburbs. Careful residential-street planning can get this little electric car to the grocery store, laundromat, drugstore, video store or any number of other suburban destinations, with out a drop of gasoline burned. Thirty-five miles doesn’t sound like much range, but for short local trips it means two gallons of gas you don’t have to burn.

In most places, the GEM won’t make a serious commuter; its range is too short and the appointments a bit too crude for the average driver’s tastes. However, as a neighborhood runabout it absolutely excels, and this is what GEM has designe this little vehicle for. It’s the perfect ride for combing the suburbs looking for garage sales or visiting friends.

Specifications:

All specs are for the 2008 GEM e2

Length: 99 in.

Width: 55 in.

Height: 70 in.

Wheelbase: 72 in.

Curb weight: 1140 lb.

Chevrolet Volt Electric Cars

Cargo capacity: 150 lb.

Base price: $6795

Motor: 72-volt heavy-duty DC

Drivetrain: two-speed integrated transmission, front-wheel drive

Horsepower: 5 continuous, 12 peak

Range: 35 miles

Technology

• The GEM e2 and GEM e4 feature a heavy-duty DC motor with continuous 5 horsepower rating and 12 horsepower peak during acceleration and hill climbing. The GEM e6 features a heavy-duty DC motor with continuous 7 horsepower rating and 15 horsepower peak during acceleration and hill climbing.

• Front-wheel drive with speed reducer and integral differential.

• Solid-state custom motor controller with under and over voltage detector, regenerative braking, motor thermal protection and top speed regulation.

• Six 12-volt flooded electrolyte batteries are standard on the GEM e2 and the GEM e4. Six 12-volt maintenance-free gel batteries are standard on the GEM e6 and nine 8-volt maintenance-free gel batteries are standard on the GEM e6 with the S Package.

• On-board 72-volt DC charger that plugs into a standard 110-volt AC 15-amp outlet.

GEM E2 Electric Cars
GEM E2 Electric Cars

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