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Project PUMA news -The 35mph wheelchair - 2009

When we saw pictures of what looked like a pimped-out wheelchair roaming the streets of New York this morning, we figured it either had to be a very late April Fool’s, or Ironside had finally got round to pimping his ride. It was neither.

In fact, it’s the result of a collaboration between GM and the brains behind Segway (that topply scooter-thing), who make some very bold claims. This vehicle will transform the way we commute forever, apparently.

Dubbed Project PUMA, or Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, the two-wheeler is electrically powered and seats two adults. The makers say it will enable people to travel around cities more quickly, safely, quietly and cleanly - and all at a lower total cost.

With its integrated lithium-ion battery, the Puma is capable of reaching speeds of 35mph - nearly twice as fast as the Segway - and will manage up to 35 miles between recharges. Which is about the same as the Tesla Roadster in the hands of Clarkson. Actually, let’s not start that debate again.

Each machine will be able to communicate with vehicles around it, apparently reducing the risk of accidents, regulating the flow of traffic and organising drinks down the pub. Or something like that, anyway.

Prices haven’t been announced yet but Segway says it expects total cost of ownership to be about a quarter of what you pay to own and run the average family car. That said, your average family car rarely runs the risk of toppling over backwards and leaving you stranded with a large headache.

What do we reckon? Revolutionary urban saviour or, er, the next Sinclair C5?

While we’re on the
subject of futuristic wheelchair-things, here’s a clip of Richard Hammond
driving the iReal, Toyota’s funky social-networking mobility-scooter:


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