Chevy Spark EV Expands to Europe and Korea

By · July 23, 2013

2014 Spark EV

The Spark EV is getting around, beyond California to Korea and Europe. (GM photo)

The Chevrolet Spark is an international car, designed by General Motors in Korea, and the company intends to sell the plug-in electric version of it there, as well as in Europe.

I know what you’ve been thinking, given GM’s low-key relationship to its only battery vehicle so far, but the Spark EV (82 miles of electric range, 119 MPGe) is proving far more than a compliance car. The company signaled it’s really interested in moving this battery-only product by offering the Spark on a $199 a month three-year lease, just like Nissan, Fiat and Honda ($259, but with a free charger thrown in). The Spark EV purchase price is still high, at $27,495.

Ultimately, the Spark EV is not a “pump and dump” exercise. GM wants it to get some traction, and is working on other members of the EV family to complement it.

Korea on the Move

So why sell the Spark EV in Korea? Because the market there is really serious, with subsidies that can amount to a third of the purchase price. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, plug-in hybrids and battery EVs together could make up nine percent of Korean auto sales by 2020, and 22 percent by 2030. And because it’s a big auto market, we’re talking about four million sales by that latter date. The Korean government has a target of producing 1.2 million “environmentally friendly” cars and trucks by 2015, representing 21 percent of auto sales.

2014 Spark EV in Korea

The Spark EV is already a Korean car, so why not sell it there? (GM photo)

Also, GM Korea, currently producing 40 percent of Chevrolet-branded vehicles, is becoming the company’s EV center. In March, Sergio Rocha, CEO of GM Korea, told Reuters that its operations would be the source of the company’s next international electric. That car, he said, “would be slightly bigger than the Spark small car and use a thoroughly new design, unlike the Spark EV which was based on an existing gasoline engine model.” Batteries will also be Korean-sourced, from LG Chem. According to Roland Berger, South Korea will be producing 4,200-megawatt-hours of automotive battery cells annually by 2015.

Europe: Starting Slow, Gaining Momentum

As for Europe, it’s been a slow-growing market for EVs, but it’s ramping up. Sales are running around 4,000 a month now, but should improve with new models and a more widely available public charging network. ABB just announced a rapid charging network for the Netherlands that should put more than 200 fast chargers at key roadway service stations by 2015. With full government backing, there are now 165 such chargers in Estonia—more than in the U.S. The big per capita success story is Norway, where the subsidies are really significant.

The Spark EV could be a big seller in Europe and Asia if the company makes the same price concessions there that it’s made in the U.S. It’s already a familiar model worldwide. The Spark in all its models has been a runaway success, with 275,228 sold globally in 2012, and 720,000 since 2009 (when it debuted in South Korea). Sales have exceeded expectations by as much as 35 percent. In the U.S., with sales only in California and Oregon so far, the success is more muted—the Spark sold 14,484 through May, where it’s been eclipsed by the Ford Fiesta (28,801) and Fiat 500 (17,562).

Little Acorns

The electric Spark? In the very limited window from the first sales June 19 to the end of the month, 27 were sold (of 75 shipped). That’s not a lot of cars, but the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV and even the Tesla Model S actually did worse in their early days.

Comments

· · 4 years ago

"I know what you’ve been thinking, given GM’s low-key relationship to its only battery vehicle so far, but the Spark EV . . . is proving far more than a compliance car."

No it isn't, and please stop repeating this press release crap. A compliance car is one where U.S. sales are limited to California and CARB-copy states and aimed at meeting ZEV quotas, and that's all Chevy's doing here with the Spark EV. I couldn't care less about sales in Europe or Korea - I'm not buying a car there. Until GM offers the Spark EV nationwide, like the LEAF, a compliance car is EXACTLY what it is. Manufacturers should be encouraged to take these cars wide, and not get credit for just paying lip service to the idea.

· · 4 years ago

I agree with "vike1108". It is only a compliance car. Not much of one at that. Choke on it, GM.

· · 4 years ago

I think the price is the reason why it is a compliance car. At $27K, they are probably losing money on each one and thus want to limit losses. If they bumped the price up to $31K or so, perhaps they wouldn't mind selling them elsewhere.

· · 4 years ago

All of you are assuming that A123 can supply enough for GM to sell as many as they want...

Until GM builds its own battery plants or switch the battery to something else, don't expec the volume to be up.

Also, CA and pacific NW accounts for more than 50% of the total BEV sales in the US. So, focusing on those states first isn't exactly a wrong thing to do...

· · 4 years ago

Curious to know if Korea currently has a build-out of Level 3 chargers. If not, this is where the SAE Combo FC can start to manifest itself. If there are already many Level 3 chargers (like Japan), they would be on the CHAdeMo standard, and GM may need to consider fitting their Level 3 port as a CHAdeMo (or offer their Sparks as Level 2 only for the interim).

· · 4 years ago

@MMF,

The batteries are actually from LG Chem, not A123 (B456?). But your points are still valid.

All modern EVs launched on the west coast. The compliance cars are stuck there, while others have since spread nationwide. The real test of whether this is a compliance car is whether it is available nationwide 12-18 months from now.

· · 4 years ago

@Brian,

No, the Volt battery is from LG Chem, NOT Spark EV. The Spark EV is specifically from A123 and it is LiFePO4. Please look it up.

· · 4 years ago

@Bridge,
"I agree with "vike1108". It is only a compliance car. Not much of one at that. Choke on it, GM."

What EV car do you own that out accelerates a Spark, and costs less that $30,000? Or perhaps you can point us to the EV that you own that has a higher MPGe rating?

· · 4 years ago

' I couldn't care less about sales in Europe or Korea - I'm not buying a car there.'

So if it is not of interest to you, nothing should be written about it, as the internet is not international and only people in the US can read English.

· · 4 years ago

@Michael, chill. Yes, Bridge's comment was needlessly harsh -- maybe in response to Jim's overly complacent piece which mostly repeats GM's marketing claims verbatim?
The Spark EV drivetrain boasts some great specs, but let's also not loose the bigger picture here: the rest of the car is a Spark. This is a bit of a surprising choice for a company which declares being "really interested" in EVs.

This guy explains it better than I would:
http://insideevs.com/beyond-the-numbers-the-spark-ev-is-priced-well-on-p...

@Davemart, vike1108 was pointing out, correctly IMHO, that sales in Europe or Asia (which we have yet to see) have nothing to do with making it "more than a compliance car" in the US.

· · 4 years ago

There is already a plethora of micro EV’s on the market in Europe, so the Spark would be just one more. On the contrary what is needed is large family EV’s that are, except the hyper high priced 130000 $ price Model S, absent from the market. Put a 75 miles Rex equipped station wagon on the European market and that will be bingo for sure.

· · 4 years ago

Compliance cars or not, at least 2 of them are sold out in CA (FitEV and 500e). So, as long as it moves the market, it is fine.

Also, GM hasn't really put a production cap on the SparkEV like the FitEV or 500e. So, at least it is one step forward.

Non-unique platform for EVs aren't exactly a bad thing in early stages. Platform cost money. Even Tesla is NOT making profit on per car basis yet. The Leaf even share the platform with Versa. Sharing parts allow the automakers to lower cost.

Look at it this way, hybrid sales are less than 4% of the market. What makes you think base on the technology today and infrastructure that BEVs will reach that in the first 5 years of launch (since 2011)?

· · 4 years ago

@Mr. O, The must be cheap shot day. I think you need to chill.

"let's also not loose the bigger picture here: the rest of the car is a Spark. This is a bit of a surprising choice for a company which declares being "really interested" in EVs."

What platform would you recommend they build their EV on, and come in at a price point they did, and still blow every other EV out of the water for performance, except a $60,000 Tesla?

It's interesting that we have a few self proclaimed "experts" here who bitch about the Spark, and yet it is getting good reviews from the press, even non-EV press. Hmmm.

· · 4 years ago

@Michael,

I totally agree with what you said.

Not to mention the fact that just about EVERY reviews so far (including Consumer Report) has said that Spark EV's driving dynamic is FAR SUPERIOR to its ICE version.

For the US market, even in the crowded CA market, there are NO "fun, fast and compact" BEV out there. It is a void in the market.

In fact, Spark EV has a class leading efficiency as well as a liquid cooled battery. Yet, we still get enough "haters" on this group.

As an EV community, we should support all good EVs, regardless it is compliance or not. Even the lease only FitEV has roles to play. The more good EVs on the road, the better future it will be for the EV community.

If peope hate it b/c GM and its EV-1 history, then I think they really need to get over something that is 20 years old....

· · 4 years ago

@Michael, MMF: where in my comment did you read I was proclaiming myself an expert, or that I was "hating" or "bitching" against the Spark EV?

While of course it's great so see new EVs hit the market, you may understand better why I don't quite follow GM's choice nor Jim's enthusiasm if you actually glanced at the page I linked above, http://insideevs.com/beyond-the-numbers-the-spark-ev-is-priced-well-on-p...

· · 4 years ago

@MrO: that InsideEV piece is crap - written by a closet GM-hater whose assumptions don't hold water. First, that the Spark EV shares its platform with an ICE car is of no relevance despite all the 'evidence' the author scrambled together. What matters is, does the car have character and does it do its job well.... apparently so, according to all the reports I have seen from all around the media world.

Secondly, that the Spark EV is based on the Spark - despite the author's attempts to prove how 'bad' of a car - is ultimately a ridiculous smear attempt which simply reveals the author's own anti-GM prejudice. Again -the media has fallen in love with this little rocket of a car, praising its driving dynamics as well as its standout performance and fun-to-drive demeanor.

That author is going to eat crow, and you might as well join him as the public proves both of you WRONG.

· · 4 years ago

I have not seen a Spark EV(yet), would love to get in one and take it for a test drive. It's at least a little larger than my Mitsubishi I-MiEV, not quite as odd looking, has an additional 20 mile range, much faster acceleration, better battery cooling system and (It seems) better electronic displays. All the while its price is lower. It may be true that it's based on the Spark, but I get the sense that it is not exactly the same save for the EV aspect. I could be wrong, but it does look more promising than some of its critics suggest. What I am curious to learn is how it stacks up to the Nissan LEAF.. The LEAF is larger, looks better apportioned, has similar range. The QC issues(standards for the charger) are problematic for both, in that we don't know which standard is going to prevail. I purchased a Sony Betamax way back when, don't want to make the same type of mistake with an EV...

· · 4 years ago

@Tra2S, the author you so vigorously attack has written other pieces overall favorable to GM (see http://insideevs.com/author/statik/). He also goes to some lengths explaining his reasoning about the Spark EV, which I think has merit.
So far, all EVs for which a gas-powered variant exists turned out to be dramatically better. It's no surprise that it is the case for the Spark too, but that alone is far from a guarantee of strong sales (see Ford Focus, Smart).

@Lou, regarding quick-charging: I don't foresee CCS being ever deployed in any meaningful numbers, but if so, it most likely will come in the form of dual-nozzle stations.
As Nissan continues to sell more EVs than anyone else, has made clear it won't switch standard, and is working on its pledge to install hundreds of QC stations in the US, I think it's safe to assume that CHAdeMO is here to stay however.

If you were about to get another EV and wanted to limit risk, could you maybe lease instead of purchasing the vehicle outright? It usually costs a little more, but then you have a few more years to see where this is all going...

· · 4 years ago

@Mr.O, I don't remember any other EV variant having impressed people (the media) as being as greatly improved in ride, handling, performance, etc. over its ICE counterpart as has the Spark EV:

http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2013/06/first-drive-electrifying-th...

The EV version of the Spark also avoids the compromises to passenger/luggage space found on other EV/PHEV variants. I think a major reason for the brilliant design results with this car is that, unlike other variants which were subcontracted out to outside sources, the Spark EV was engineered in-house by GM - an important point that the InsideEV author failed to mention, much less consider.

No - the InsideEV story based its premature dismissal of the Spark EV on points of little relevance, and ignored the points of high relevance (performance, performance, performance) which bring buyers into showrooms.

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