GM announced today the Spark EV, their first all electric car since the EV1, will be sold in select U.S. and global markets starting in 2013. It is an electric version of their Spark mini-car, and is targeted to urban customers.
Little is known at press time, with details to be announced later. The battery pack will come from A123 Systems, unlike the LG Chem pack used in the Volt. It is a very small car of the subcompact style popular in Europe. The only announced market for the initial launch is, unsurprisingly, California. That’s because selling the Spark EV in California will help them meet upcoming changes in that states ZEV mandate program. As a plug-in hybrid car the Volt gets only partial ZEV credits.
The standard gasoline-powered Spark will be on sale in the U.S. in 2012, and the gasoline powered Spark is already on sale in several countries around the world. They have demonstration fleets of the EV in Shanghai (Sail EV), Korea (Cruze EV) and India (Beat EV) to seek feedback to be incorporated into the final vehicle. The demonstration vehicles featured a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery powering a 61 PS (45kW / 60 hp) electric motor and a range of 80 miles or so.
“The Spark EV offers customers living in urban areas who have predictable driving patterns or short commutes an all-electric option,” said Jim Federico, global vehicle chief engineer for electric vehicles at Chevrolet. “It complements Chevrolet’s growing range of electrified vehicles, including the Volt extended-range EV and the 2013 Malibu Eco with eAssist technology.”
Chevy’s press announcement did not disclose the car’s range, which makes us curious about the “predictable driving patterns or short commutes” comment. The phrase is eerily similar to the “range anxiety” fearism GM presents in Volt marketing statements. The actual range of an electric car is largely dependant on the kilowatt-hours capacity of the battery pack, and of course a larger battery pack means a higher cost. This means electric car manufacturers have to trade between target price, battery pack size and resultant range expectations to decide on the vehicle package they sell. GM’s choice of wording makes us wonder if they’ll choose a small battery pack to keep the price low, and therefore deliver a smaller range than the other electric vehicles. For a small car like the Spark EV, GM may be targeting a small sticker price. We won’t know what they mean until they announce the details next year.
The choice of A123 Systems for the Spark EV’s battery is a departure from the battery supplier on the Volt. While designing the Volt, GM worked with dozens of battery suppliers to evaluate the best ones, ultimately narrowing to a choice between LG Chem and A123, before chosing LG Chem. A123’s stock price jumped today from yesterday’s close of $3.22 to $4.20 today when the market closed. (see A123 Systems stock rises on Chevy Spark EV news)
The cutaway picture provided by GM shows a four door sub-compact that presumably seats four people, and has a small luggage compartment in the rear. The battery pack is a rectangular box under that rear compartment, rather than the T-shaped box in the Volt. The drive train components are at the front of the car between the wheels, and it has a J1772 charging port in front of the left-hand door.
Chevrolet to Produce Spark EV All-Electric Vehicle