Peapod - click above for a high res gallery

Breaking away from the excitement free food here at the New York Auto Show today, we joined up with our friends over at Engadget to pay a quick visit to Peapod Mobility. You know, the GEM version 2 folks. While saying this is the next-generation GEM is technically correct, the Peapod is really a fresh concept for Chrysler (which owns GEM and made Peapod Mobility its own company earlier this year).

Peter Arnell, the chief innovation officer at Peapod Mobility, took us on a quick descriptive tour of the Peapod and said that the design was influenced by three things. Ready for the list? The reflection in Buzz Aldrin's helmet when he stepped onto the moon, a turtle and Darth Vader. Yeah, that's what we thought, too. Find our more about the Peapod after the jump.

First and foremost, the Peapod is a neighborhood electric vehicle, and has all of the benefits and drawbacks that entails: zero emissions, a 25 mph top speed, two-cents a mile estimated running costs, and a 30-mile range. A full charge takes 6-8 hours from a 110V outlet. This is all standard NEV stuff. The Peapod stands out by design. From the outside, the totally curvy body smiles at you from pretty much every angle, but especially the front. Even when you're sitting in the car, there is a feeling of openess. The entire top is see-through and removable, for example, and all four mesh seats in the rolling prototype we got to spend time with are Aeron-like and greatly increase the spacious feel of the interior. There is a push-button dirve/reverse selector and an integrated iPod dock. The LED instrument cluster display is barebones and clear. Arnell surprised us by pointed out that the interior light doubles as a removable flashlight. Here's another surprise: the Peapod might cost $12,000 when it goes on sale. Orders are supposed to start this month, on Earth Day, with deliveries scheduled for the end of summer.

Before leaving, we got a quick peek at the Peapod Mobliity office where we saw renderings of Peapod trucks (Utilitypod), two-seat (Twinpod) and four-seat models, and some of the technical bits that power the vehicle. Arnell also showed off a range of design experiments that show how the Peapod design evolved. We were sad to leave without a quick spin around the block, but those should be coming soon.

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