General Motors takes us on a crazy test ride in the EN-V electric prototype vehicle (video)

Cars are big and stupid. Well, most of the time, anyway. Need to bring home a couple sheets of drywall in the rain? Man it's nice to have a big truck with a cab. Need to run Jr. to school five miles away on a smoothly paved? Suddenly that full-size, extended cab, 13.5mpg dually monster starts seeming just a little silly. Assuming people continue their flock to the cities, in the future that latter situation will be an awful lot more common than the former and our cities simply won't be able to manage. The streets won't be wide enough, parking garages tall enough, nor oil wells deep enough. We need something different, and GM thinks that something is the EN-V. Even though it still isn't the future we just got a drive in one, so read on for our impressions.

First of all, EN-V isn't really intended to imply envy, especially in the case of the bulbous one that looks to us a little like Ponyo in her mid-transition state. It stands for Electric Networked-Vehicle and, yes, it's electric. The entire powertrain is a flat slab upon which the car sits, what's been dubbed the "skateboard." The body of the car then slides forward or backward to balance, and to go forward the body simply leans forward -- just like someone on a Segway. No surprise given that Segway helped to develop the P.U.M.A. that we test-drove back in 2009.

Its specs are easy to remember -- if you dig metric, at least: 500kg weight, 50km range, and 50km/h maximum speed. Things are a little less symmetrical in imperial: 1,100lbs, 31 miles, and 31mph. It seats two, has no suspension (other than the rubber in the tires and the padding in the seats), but we still haven't mentioned the best part: the networking.

The cars can talk to each other, and not just to say "Hey." It's more like "Get out of my way," with one car being able to automatically brake and avoid another. They can also say "Follow me," a practice called platooning with one car automatically (and safely) running in the tracks of the other.

Plenty more tricks, though, perhaps the best being that the car can park itself. Get out of the car, pull out your cellphone, hit a button, and it zips down the block and finds its own parking space. Hit another button and it comes right back. Sadly there are neither turbo boost nor air brake buttons to be found at this point, but we can hope for a future release. We'll leave the snarky British accent.