Polishing the GEM
By EV World
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When DaimlerChrysler bought Global Electric Motorcars or GEM, the gossip was that the company was simply using it as a strategy to comply -- on-the-cheap-- with California's Zero Emission Vehicle mandate. The company could afford to buy the Fargo-based electric car maker and virtually give the vehicles away while earning valuable credits under the state's complex scheme for promoting zero emission vehicles.
In addition, there have been persistent rumors that the German-American auto giant is looking to dump GEM now that it and its competitors have effectively stymied the mandate, replacing its ten percent ZEV requirement with a token number of fuel cell vehicle demonstrations.
But far from cutting and running away from its investment in the market-leading NEV company, the 2005 GEM strongly suggests that its parent company is willing to spend money and engineering talent on improving the product line. That fact quickly became obvious from my discussion with Lenny Szabo during the 2004 Electric Drive Transportation Association conference in Orlando, Florida this past September.
Recorded in the exhibition hall, Szabo spends twenty minutes explaining the improvements and refinements to the low-speed electric car, beginning by stating, "we've got a lot of improvements in our '05 model, and what we've done is we've taken a lot of automotive engineering and incorporated it into our car". While most of the improvements came through GEM's own engineers, Szabo indicated that DaimlerChrysler provides some engineering support as well as use of its Arizona proving grounds for test purposes.
Some of the major improvements he discussed include the introduction of a double A, independent front suspension to improve handling and ease of steering. GEM also widened the track by three inches, which reduced the turning radius from about 20 feet to between 16 and 17 feet. Interestingly, all the improvements he lists come at no increase in the base price of the vehicle over the 2004 model.
To listen to the complete 20-minute interview, click the MP3 Player at the right or download the 4.9M MP3 file to your hard drive to replay it on your favorite MP3 device.