GM Makes Vague Commitment to Cars with Plugs
Mary Barra, GM's global product development chief, told reporters this week via satellite conference that, "A major focus for GM’s electrification strategy will center on the plug. We have every intention of maintaining our leadership position in plug-in vehicles." This rhetoric suggests that General Motors is feeling more confident about sales of the Chevy Volt, and recognizes that its plug-in cars could be its best hope for establishing a reputation for cutting-edge green technology.
But delivering on promises, even vague ones, by putting a range of attractive products into showrooms is another matter. The only concrete number offered by GM is its new target to sell 500,000 "electrified" cars by the end of 2017. By electrified, GM means any vehicle that features even the slightest bit of electrification—in other words, it includes GM's lineup of mild hybrid eAssist vehicles that don't use a plug.
The Chevy Spark is not exactly the most inspiring vehicle for GM to lead a plug-in car market assault. While the company said the range of the Spark EV will be among "the best in the segment," the field of small electric commuter vehicles is limited—and its sales to date have been negligible. Using the general rule-of-thumb for real-world EV efficiency of 3.5 miles per kilowatt-hour, the Spark EV's 20-kWh pack should deliver 70 miles of range on single charge. Given the small platform, perhaps that can be stretched to 80 miles. The 2013 Smart Electric Drive and Mitsubishi i store 17.6 kWh and 16 kWh respectively.
Those two small EVs have combined sales of about 600 units so far this year—compared to nearly 7,000 LEAF sales, and more than 19,000 sales of GM's Chevy Volt. Marketing for the Volt has emphasized that it doesn't require any sacrifice in range, comfort and performance, in order to drive electric.
What many plug-in fans are waiting for is a concrete plan from the company to produce a complete line-up of cars using the Volt's extended-range electric system. Plug-in hybrids are proving to be more popular among American consumers than pure electric cars. "What started out as a technology proof point has turned into a real-world starting point to push EV technology further and faster than we thought possible five years ago," Barra said, in an official company press release. "The unique propulsion technology pioneered in the Volt —the same technology that will be featured in the Cadillac ELR—will be a core piece of our electrification strategy going forward."
Yet, for probably the next few years, GM will use eAssist mild hybrids to produce higher sales volume of electrified vehicles. "Our commitment to eAssist is unwavering," Barra said. "In fact, our future portfolio calls for eAssist to be on hundreds of thousands of GM vehicles annually by 2017."
The 2014 Spark EV's motor produces 130 horsepower and instantaneous torque of approximately 400 pound-feet. GM says it will go from 0 to 60 mph in less than eight seconds. Additionally, the Spark EV will be the first vehicle to feature the SAE combo charger, which allows for DC Fast Charging of up to 80 percent of battery capacity in roughly 20 minutes. GM says the Spark's lithium-ion battery is capable of handling multiple DC Fast Charges daily.
The 2014 Chevy Spark EV will arrive in showrooms throughout California in summer 2013. Pricing has not been announced.
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