Chevy's recipe for Spark EV: Torque, tech
SAN FRANCISCO -- General Motors is betting on the Chevrolet Spark EV's torque and technology for an edge over growing competition in the still-tiny electric-vehicle market.
GM will launch the Spark EV this summer in California, Oregon, Canada and Korea. Last month, GM engineers showed off the car's technology to journalists here during technical reviews and abbreviated test drives.
GM hasn't disclosed pricing, but it says the Spark EV will sell for "under $25,000 with tax incentives." That implies a sticker in the low $30,000s before applying a $7,500 federal tax credit.
The basics: A GM-built electric motor combined with a 560-pound lithium ion battery pack will deliver 130 hp and an eye-catching 400 pounds-feet of torque, helping the Spark EV to go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds.
GM has invested considerable engineering resources to convert its global minicar to an electric drivetrain. The front and rear fascias were lowered to improve the car's aerodynamics. The battery pack sits above the rear axle, where the gas tank rests in a conventional Spark, giving the EV a lower center of gravity.
Engineers added a stronger torsion beam and stiffer springs to accommodate the extra mass, said Chuck Russell, chief engineer for the Spark EV.
GM has not yet disclosed the car's range but says it will be "among the best" for small EVs. Competing vehicles typically can travel between 60 and 100 miles on a full charge.
Notable features: Inside are two 7-inch LCD screens. The MyLink infotainment system touch screen sits in the center stack. The other screen, housed in the instrument panel, includes a "confidence gauge" that shows a minimum, maximum and average expected range that adjusts based on driving conditions.
GM has partnered with a Korean company, Engis Technologies, to offer a $50 navigation app, BringGo, which displays maps and turn-by-turn directions on the touch screen in the center stack.
The MyLink system will be compatible with Siri, the voice-recognition system on the iPhone 4S and 5.
GM says the Spark will be the first EV to offer DC fast charging, which can charge the battery up to 80 percent of its capacity within 20 minutes.
What GM says: GM will tout the Spark EV's quick acceleration and ample torque as a differentiator. "The torque never runs out," Russell says. "We could have dialed back the performance. But we wanted to set this car up differently from other EVs on the market."
Shortcomings and compromises: Fully charging a depleted battery can take up to 15 hours using a 120-volt standard household connector. GM says that charge times typically won't take that long because owners will rarely be charging a fully drained battery.
The market: EV sales still are in their infancy and future demand is uncertain. This year through October, just 9,269 EVs were sold in the United States, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
More than two-thirds of those were Nissan Leafs. Other entrants include the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Honda Fit EV.
The skinny: The combination of technology and surprising pep could make the Spark EV a viable choice for urban dwellers. For GM, the expected skimpy volumes make the Spark EV more important from an execution standpoint as the company pins its future green-car strategy on EVs and plug-in hybrids.
|Spark EV vs. i-MiEV|
|Tale of the tape for 2 electric vehicles|
|2014 chevy Spark EV||2013 Mitsubishi i-MiEV|
|Wheelbase||93.5 in.||100.4 in.|
|Length||144.7 in.||144.8 in.|
|Width||62.9 in.||62.4 in.|
|Height||62.6 in.||63.6 in.|
|Curb weight||2,967 lbs.*||2,579 lbs.|
|Battery pack||20 kwh lithium ion||16 kwh lithium ion|
|Motor||110 kW*||49 kW|
|Total horsepower||130 hp||66 hp|
|EPA mpg-e||Not yet available||112 combined|
|Base price||Under $32,500*||$29,975**|
|*GM preliminary estimate **Includes shipping|
You can reach Mike Colias at email@example.com.