Detroit Auto Show: What's going on with GEM?

Electric vehicles have been generating ink in many directions, from the high-end sports cars like Tesla to the futuristic Venturi Eclectic. The grass-roots popularity of "Who Killed the Electric Car" has prompted many eco-motorists to simply build their own at home.

Through it all, Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) continues to be the best-selling electric car in the country. Company officials, however, are aware that the NEV movement is bringing more players into the market. ZENN Motor Company and Miles Automotive Group have introduced NEVs that look more like subcompact cars.

"That may hurt 'em in the long run," said Larry Oswald, GEM's chief executive. "Other people on think they're regular cars and don't realize they can't go more than 25 mph."

The car-like styling isn't the main concern at GEM, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler; it's competing against inferior Chinese imports that rely on copying technology, not innovation. But GEM is committed to improving the amenities, styling and utility of its vehicles.

For 2007, a new steering system reduces the turning effort by 36 percent as well as the turning diameter. Also recently introduced is the eL XD, a tougher version of the eL utility flatbed that now boasts a 1,430-pound payload. The XD comes with nine 8-volt maintenance-free gel batteries compared to the six 12-volt packages found in most of the other models. The e6, GEM's 6-passenger model, can also be ordered with the gel batteries.

Check out the gallery of vehicles shown at the Detroit Auto show. The e2, e4 and e6 are designed to carry people while the eS, EL and eL XD are for hauling cargo.

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