It's not surprising to hear about Chrysler Group unleashing low-speed electric car maker GEM. It's lineup of bubble-shaped glorified golf-buggies is being sold to Polaris Industries, Inc., makers of everything from snowmobiles and off-road all-terrain vehicles through to motorcycles and its own neighborhood electric vehicles.
Last year, Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) was the focus of a harsh study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that didn't like what it was discovering after doing crash tests on GEM cars. IIHS made a very good point -- these vehicles are safe and reasonable in gated communities such as senior living facilities and work stations where the speed level is low and the risks of head on crashes are basically gone. But out on the road with cars going well over 35 mph, the neighborhood electric vehicles and their passengers are too vulnerable.
GEM has been around for quite a few years. I can remember going to the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute annual conference in 2007 and seeing the company's display and golf-cart type vehicles in the ride and drive. It's similar to the hydrogen industry bringing fuel cells to vehicles such as fork lifts -- there are a lot vehicles out there used for commercial apps, and they're a good place to test out new technology like battery-powered and fuel cell vehicles.