Hi-tech bubble car pops back into fashion
Congested roads, the fight against pollution, and dwindling oil reserves have revived interest in the smallest car on the block
Sunday 03 October 2010
The bubble car, symbol of the Fifties and Sixties, is returning to the UK's roads with a futuristic facelift more reminiscent of sci-fi films than of the German cockpit chic of its airplane- inspired predecessors.
The new models hark back to a golden age of Messerschmitt, Heinkel, and classics such as the French Velam Isetta – but with designers and scientists challenging each other to cram in the technology to tackle scarce road and parking space, pollution emissions, and dwindling fossil fuels.
Kia's electric Concept Pop made its public debut at the Paris Motor Show yesterday, while Renault launched its latest range of electric cars in London last month, fronted by the lithium-ion battery-powered Twizy, which charges overnight, when the cost of electricity falls.
In the vanguard of this apparently science fiction future, is the two wheeled EN-V, the product of a partnership between the American firm General Motors and one of China's biggest car manufacturers, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.
The car uses the two-wheeled balancing system developed by personal transport company Segway. The car and the Segway use "dynamic stabilisers" with electric motors fitted to wheels to counter rotate and so balance a central platform.
The EN-V's platform is its chassis, which shifts forward on to a pair of landing wheels. Getting out through its transparent dome-shaped door is easy once the car is parked in a space less than half the size of a Mini.
The vehicle can reach 25mph, has a range of 40km, and offers infrared detectors to recognise body heat, ultrasonic detectors and radars to recognise objects, and can talk to other cars via a communication network.
Jim Jaimson from the Microcar Club in York, a group which celebrates and restores bubble cars, said: "This is an idea that people have been working on for many decades. It's just now the technology of the power source has caught up. They are reliable, reusable, and you can now get a decent speed out of them as well.
"Before, we were relying on acid batteries, but now we have various power cells that we can put in the vehicles. It's the way forward."
Life & Style blogs
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
- 1 All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
- 5 Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...
£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...
£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...