Futurists predict that by 2030 more than 60 percent of the world’s population, which by that time should number around eight billion people, will be concentrated into urban areas. Streets will be more congested than ever and pressure on a public infrastructure--already struggling to meet the growing demand for transportation and basic services--will be tremendous.

General Motors’ solution, formulated together with the aid of Chinese partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Group (SAIC), is for a radical change in personal urban transportation. There are a number of proposals on the table for the vehicles of the future, and one of the most promising is a new vehicle form called EN-V.

EN-V, which is short for Electric Networked-Vehicle, is essentially a two-seat electric vehicle based on the same platform developed together with Segway last year for the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (P.U.M.A.) concept. Segway has worked with GM to develop and deliver multiple copies of the drivetrain platform that connect to and power the various EN-Vs.

The vehicle’s construction is a mix of carbon-fiber, custom-tinted Lexan and acrylic, which results in a final kerb weight of around 1,100 pounds--about a third of the weight of a modern vehicle.

Drive for each of the concepts comes from electric motors mounted in each of the vehicles’ two driving-mode wheels. Segway’s dynamic stabilization technology gives the EN-V the ability to carry two passengers and light cargo in a footprint that’s about a third of a traditional vehicle. It can literally “turn on a dime” within its own operating envelope. In addition, everything in EN-V is drive-by-wire, supporting its ability to operate autonomously or under manual control. The motors not only provide power for acceleration, but also bring the vehicle to a stop.

Powering the motors are arrays of lithium-ion batteries and once fully charged they can carry the EN-V a total distance of 25 miles. The EN-V can also improve the efficiency of the public electric infrastructure since the vehicle can communicate with the electric grid to determine the best time to recharge based on overall usage.

This same communications system will also enable passengers to enjoy autonomous operation of the vehicles during peak traffic times, as well as keep in touch with each other through a unique social network.

Handling the design of the vehicles were GM Holden’s design team in Australia, which penned the Xiao (Laugh), GM Europe, which was responsible for the Jiao (Pride) and GM’s Advanced Design Studio in California, which came up with the Miao (Magic).

The three different EN-V models were unveiled today in Shanghai ahead of the city’s World Expo, which kicks off on May 1.