GEM vehicles picked for G8 Summit

Russian government orders 30 Global Electric Motorcars to serve as official transportation during the summit. Photos: Driving little GEMs

Despite its odd retro-meets-futuristic look, the Global Electric Motorcar will be the ride of choice for world leaders at the G8 Summit next month in St. Petersburg, Russia. GEM e4

The four-passenger GEM e4 might look like a cross between George Jetson's flying car and something that Rodney Dangerfield might have driven in "Caddyshack," but that hasn't stopped the Russian government from ordering 30 of the egg-shaped electric vehicles for the summit, which takes place July 15 through July 17. Each one will be painted with the flag of its occupant's country. The zero-emission GEMs were used at 2004's G8 in Sea Island, Ga., and, apparently, were a hit--at least to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who oversaw the purchase.

The GEM e4, which can drive 30 miles before needing a recharge, is slightly under 11 feet long and tips the scales at 1,270 pounds, making even DaimlerChrysler's teensy Smart ForTwo gas-powered car seem like a Hummer. The DaimlerChrysler-owned GEM also manufactures a petite, two-seat e2; the eS and eL, which have miniature truck beds; and the longer e6, which looks like something out of a Disneyland ride.

In addition to shuttling around world leaders, GEMs are typically used on the grounds of resorts, college campuses, hotels and planned communities. Prices on the various models range from $6,000 to $13,000.

Don't expect to see pictures of President Bush or British Prime Minister Tony Blair going for zippy late-night joyrides in their GEMs: The little vehicles max out at only 25 miles per hour.

Historically, high-profile politicians' eco-savvy technology statements haven't always meshed well with their true preferences. In April, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Illinois, was caught on camera ditching a hydrogen-powered vehicle, which he had driven during a photo op, for an SUV.