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Preview: Peapod Electric Car
This could be the coolest iPod accessory yet: Chrysler's GEM division has introduced a docking station on wheels. And, it can carry you and three friends along with a tune.
GEM calls the new docking station "Peapod," and it is actually a futuristic neighborhood electric vehicle, or NEV. Unlike the current GEM car that has an exposed tubular structure, the Peapod offers a sleek, ultramodern, and fully enclosed form. In contrast, when it rains the current open GEM design must be enclosed with accessory cab components if you want to stay dry.
The Peapod is a product of Chrysler's ENVI design and engineering division. ENVI is a skunkworks style operation dedicated to electrically powered vehicles. The organization is said to operate semi-independently to facilitate moving quickly outside the normal corporate climate.
Clearly, the Peapod's design language is intended to look very futuristic. Its rounded teardrop form offers large expanses of tinted glass, including a large overhead glass roof panel. The body design maximizes interior space and has four high-back bucket seats with space saving mesh seatbacks. The dash area is a large elliptical shape with a center dock that can accommodate an iPod or iPhone.
The car is built on a 102 inch wheelbase with an overall length of 143.6 inches. It is 56.5 inches wide and 70.5 inches tall. For contrast, that's just two inches shorter in overall length than a MINI Cooper with a longer wheelbase. Its turning circle is 32 feet curb-to-curb. Base vehicle weight is estimated to be 1,290 pounds, and with a rated payload capacity of 910 pounds the maximum gross vehicle weight is 2,200 pounds. The Peapod is built on an aluminum spaceframe that's supported by dual A-arm front suspension with coil-over shocks and rack-and-pinion steering.
Buyers will have a choice of either six flooded electrolyte 12-volt lead acid batteries or optional maintenance-free batteries. The Peapod's 72-volt electrical system will have an onboard charger that will top off the batteries in six to eight hours from a standard 110-volt outlet. No details have been released on the electric motor, but the platform will be front-wheel-drive and feature regenerative braking. A full charge will yield approximately 30 miles of range, depending on terrain.
Neighborhood electric vehicles like the Peapod are street-legal low-speed vehicles that can be driven in most states on public roads with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or lower. NEVs are electronically governed to have a top speed of 25 mph to meet federal requirements. They're intended for use in congested urban areas, gated communities, and private and public lands that can benefit from their low-impact, zero tailpipe emissions electric drive.
Chrysler also took the occasion of the Peapod launch to rename its neighborhood electric vehicle division. Formerly Global Electric Motors, GEM now stands for Green Eco Mobility. GEM, based in Fargo, North Dakota, has produced more than 38,000 vehicles since 1998. The current GEM line includes two, four, and six seat models, along with models designed for cargo hauling and specialty applications. Those 38,000 GEM cars have now amassed more than 200 million miles, saving an estimated 10 million gallons of gasoline and 150 tons of tailpipe emissions.
The Peapod is scheduled to go into production in 2009 and represents a major component of Chrysler's reinvigorated emphasis on electric drive. Company CEO Bruce Coventry also shares that GEM will follow the Peapod with a new, larger city electric vehicle and light-duty commercial electric truck. Expect to see more on these new electric vehicles in the near future since they're slated to go into production within the next year.
As an accessory to your iPod, the Peapod will be offered in a rainbow of bright colors that complete the statement. And if you need one more reason to fall for the Peapod, take a look at the front - it's always smiling.
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