Dan Simmons:

Four mini-cars will be tooling around UW-Madison for the next year, fueled by electricity and available for short-term checkout by anyone with a university ID including faculty, staff and students. The university is one of four campuses nationally and the only one in the Midwest to host the cars.

Called “new urban electric vehicles,” the Innova Dash cars will include tablet-sized computers that will be connected to the university’s wireless network. They’ll feed data including position, speed and battery charge directly to the network. A number of research projects will then use the data. The cars have a top speed of about 35 mph and a 100-mile range, according to its manufacturer, Illinois-based Innova UEV.

An online reservation system will provide information about availability, battery charge and availability of charging stations near the desired location. The vehicles will be used like others in the local transportation fleet.

“This project aligns with the UW-Madison’s efforts to address sustainability issues by the university’s research enterprise and outreach efforts,” Suman Banerjee, a computer sciences professor who’s leading the project, saidin a news release.

Colorado State University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Washington were also chosen to receive the cars in a contest sponsored by the nonprofit organization Internet2 and Innova UEV. Eleven total schools applied.

Asymcar 8: The EcoV.