GEM Electric

Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of car giant Chrysler,, which is regarded as the world leader in low speed neighbourhood electric vehicles. Despite the fact that a number of the larger car manufacturers in the world were slow to respond to the electric vehicle market it would seem that Chrysler was quicker than many to stake a claim in this potentially enormous investment arena.

The history of GEM

Initially GEM (formerly known as Trans2) was set up by a team of ex-General Motors engineers who obviously spotted the potential for battery-powered electric vehicles in and around neighbourhoods. The operation went public in 1992 in Michigan although it was not until 1998 that the company's first vehicle hit the marketplace and the success story which is GEM began to fall into place. The initial breakthrough came with the 48 V GEM vehicle, which allowed two passengers to travel around neighbourhoods at top speed of 20 mph. However, while the vehicle was released into the marketplace in April 1998 there was a major breakthrough in June 1998 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to introduce a new class of motor vehicle to the U.S. market. These became known as neighbourhood electric vehicles and due to their environmentally friendly nature they were allowed on public roads if they had safety belts, headlamps, windshield wipers and safety glass. Thankfully, these particular safety aspects are standard with all GEM electric vehicles and as such all owners of these new models were immediately allowed access to public roads.

It is interesting to note that GEM battery powered electric vehicles are legal on the streets in the vast majority of U.S. states. However, their usage is limited to roads where the speed limit is not in excess of 35 mph although many of the vehicles available today from GEM have maximum speeds of just 25 mph and a maximum range which approaches 30 miles.

GEM models available today

There are a number of GEM models available today which include:

GEM e2

The GEM e2 is a 2 seater vehicle created for those short trips which you make every day. The vehicle is powered by a six 12 V batteries which allows the vehicle to cover a maximum range of 35 miles per charge.

The specifications of the GEM e2 are as follows:-

Basic Weight 1,140 lbs

Maximum weight 1,850 lbs

Payload capacity 710 lbs

Length 99 inches

Height 70 inches

Width 55 inches

Turning circle 24 feet

Top speed in low mode 15 mph

Top speed in high mode 25 mph

GEM e4

The GEM e4 vehicle has been designed to transport a maximum of four people and is proving popular in the family and friends market. This particular model has a sunroof and six 12 V batteries create a maximum range capacity of 30 miles on a full charge.

The specifications of the GEM e4 are:

Basic Weight 1,290 lbs

Maximum weight 2,200 lbs

Payload capacity 910 lbs

Length 128 inches

Height 70 inches

Width 55 inches

Turning circle 32 feet

Top speed in low mode 15 mph

Top speed in high mode 25 mph

GEM e6

The GEM e6 is one of the more luxurious battery-powered vehicles available in the market today. The vehicle itself is designed to carry up to six people together with additional cargo carrying capabilities available as added extras. Again the GEM e6 is powered by six 12 V batteries and has a range of up to 40 miles on a full charge using the extras available on this model.

The specifications on the GEM e6 are as follows:-

Basic Weight 1,690 lbs

Maximum weight 3,000 lbs

Payload capacity 1,310 lbs

Length 162 inches

Height 71 inches

Width 55 inches

Turning circle 39 feet

Top speed in low mode 15 mph

Top speed in high mode 25 mph

GEM eS

The GEM eS is a very functional and reliable battery-powered vehicle which has a maximum range of 30 miles and is again powered by six 12 V batteries which are discreetly placed onboard the vehicle. This very compact vehicle is proving very popular amongst those looking to do their bit for the environment as well as save on the traditional cost of a petrol powered vehicle. It should cost just pennies a day to run the GEM eS!

The specifications on the GEM eS are as follows:-

Basic Weight 1,170 lbs

Maximum weight 1,850 lbs

Payload capacity 680 lbs

Length 108 inches

Height 70 inches

Width 55 inches

Turning circle 24 feet

Top speed in low mode 15 mph

Top speed in high mode 25 mph

GEM eL

The GEM eL is one of the more popular vehicles in the working environment and is especially useful to those working indoors due to the fact there are no omissions from the vehicle. This more robust of battery-powered vehicles comes with an additional trailer allowing additional cargo capacity.

The specifics of the GEM eL include:-

Basic Weight 1,255 lbs

Maximum weight 2,300 lbs

Payload capacity 1,050 lbs

Length 144 inches

Height 70 inches

Width 55 inches

Turning circle 35 feet

Top speed in low mode 15 mph

Top speed in high mode 25 mph

GEM eL XD

The GEM eL XD is specifically designed for the workplace and is one of the more robust battery-powered vehicles available from GEM. The vehicle itself is powered by a 7.0 hp motor with nine 8 volt batteries which gives a maximum range of 40 miles on a full charge. The beauty of this vehicle is the fact it can be used on road, off-road or in-doors which has opened up so many new markets for battery-powered vehicles.

The specifics of the GEM eL XD include:-

Basic Weight 1,550 lbs

Maximum weight 3,000 lbs

Payload capacity 1,450 lbs

Length 144 inches

Height 71 inches

Width 55 inches

Turning circle 35 feet

Top speed in low mode 15 mph

Top speed in high mode 25 mph

Standard features on GEM vehicles

The very fact there are 40,000 Global Electric Motorcars on the roads today is a perfect example of the success which the company has had over recent times. One of the main reasons for the success is the fact the company has focused not only on the technology itself but the design and the safety aspects of these vehicles, which has been paramount from day one. So what are the standard features available?

Safety

Rearview and dual exterior mirrors

Rear and side reflectors

Laminated, tinted safety glass with windshield wiper

Quartz halogen headlamps which have a 20 second safety delay after the vehicle is turned off

Three-point safety belts in all vehicles

A minimum of 12 inch street rated tires although the more expensive vehicles have 13 inch street rated tires

The body of the vehicles are light yet sturdy due to the fact they are made of thermoplastic panels

Design

The vast majority of the models available are designed to seat two people with a bench style seat and foam padding. However the GEM e4 will seat four people and the GEM e6 will seat a maximum of six people

Each of the wheels is fitted with hydraulic brakes and a parking brake for extra security

Study suspension ensures a smooth ride and maximum protection for the vehicle

Rack and pinion steering systems are standard across the range

Technology

The majority of the early models are powered by a heavy-duty DC motor with power between 5 hp and 12 hp during acceleration and hill climbing. However the GEM e6 and the GEM eL XD have continuous power of 7 hp which peaks at 15 hp during acceleration and hill climbing

All of the vehicles available today have front-wheel-drive with speed reducer and integral differential

The vehicles on the market today come with regenerative braking, motor thermal protection and a maximum speed regulator

The latest battery technology has been made available for the vehicles from the 12 V flooded electrolyte battery to the 8 V maintenance free gel batteries available on some of the latest models

The vehicles come with an onboard 72 V DC charger that will fit a standard 110 V AC 15 amp outlet

The future of GEM vehicles

There is no doubt that short distance battery operated vehicles are becoming more and more popular not only in the U.S. but around the world. These vehicles which are extremely environmentally friendly, very cheap to run and due to their reduced speeds they are extremely safe to operate. The company has made a play for the consumer market as well as the corporate market with more and more companies now becoming environmentally conscious. As a consequence, we have seen an array of new vehicles issued since 1998 attracting attention from different areas of the marketplace and indeed different areas of the world.

The company is set to introduce its first sports car model in 2011 which will effectively give the company exposure to an even greater array of potential buyers. Chrysler, the owner of GEM, has attempted successfully to stay at the cutting edge of battery-operated vehicle technology and after a relatively slow start the sector is forecast to grow significantly in the short, medium and longer term. Staying ahead of competitors will be the key to the success of this Chrysler operation but with such a strong parent behind it there should be no fears regarding future investment requirements.

Why will the neighbourhood electric vehicle market grow in the future?

The neighbourhood electric vehicle market now includes over 40,000 GEM battery-operated vehicles and this figure is growing all the time. Due to a mixture of traffic congestion in many towns and cities around the world as well as the need to respect the environment it seems that this particular sector of the vehicle market is set to grow significantly in the short term. When you also consider that a GEM vehicle is up to eight times more efficient than a traditional petrol operated vehicle it does become something of a no-brainer as to why this particular sector is set to grow.

Government backing around the world

While many governments have backed away from introducing tax incentives to companies looking at environmentally friendly vehicles in the past, there has been a big shift in this particular arena of late. Governments around the world are now trying to encourage manufacturers and buyers to become more involved in the battery-operated and environmentally friendly vehicle market. As a consequence, there is likely to be an increase in incentives for manufacturers and buyers in the short, medium and longer term which will encourage more buyers to look at this particular area and encourage manufacturers to introduce more variety.

Conclusion

While companies such as Chrysler have often been criticised for their position in the traditional vehicle market there is no doubt they have finally woken up to the potential for battery operated vehicles and more environmentally friendly fuels. Thankfully Chrysler has taken up his baton with the acquisition of GEM and used its significant financial strength and experience in the automotive arena to maximize the potential for the group so far.

It is very welcoming to see that governments around the world are finally looking to encourage the manufacture and use of battery-powered vehicles, something which has become possible due to massive improvements in battery technology of late. The significant investment which is now pouring into this particular arena will see more technological developments announced in the short to medium term and will obviously catch the eye of more potential buyers.

There is no doubt that battery operated vehicles have benefited enormously from the extreme volatility in the oil price over the last few years and the comparison on a cost basis between traditional petrol vehicles and battery-operated vehicles. The stigma which was initially attached to "slow and ugly" battery operated vehicles has virtually disappeared as the design of this particular range of vehicles has improved dramatically over the years.

As more and more of the larger automotive manufacturers join the party we will see greater developments in technology and a greater take-up of this new, very efficient and very interesting technology.