Will Upcoming Electric Chevy Spark Be Bargain Priced Like Gas-Burning Counterpart?

By · April 25, 2012

Electric Chevy Spark

We ask: Will General Motors price the electric Chevrolet Spark reasonably or will it carry a significant premium over the gasoline-burning version of the upcoming Spark?

General Motors priced the five-door 2013 Chevrolet Spark at an extremely reasonable $12,995. That's the base price for the stripped-down LS version, which includes 10 airbags, air conditioning, power windows, OnStar and 15-inch alloys, of the 2013 Spark.

Stepping up to the Spark 1LT trim package will cost $14,495 and the top-of-the-line Spark 2LT checks in at 15,795. Of course, options will add to the price, but all Sparks come well-equipped. Add $925 for an automatic transmission.

Chevy Spark

The conventional Chevy Spark starts at an extremely reasonable $12,995, but will the Spark EV be bargain-priced, too?

With pricing for the 1.2-liter gasoline-burning Chevy Spark finalized—and with the EV market in need of an ultra-affordable model—we wonder how much of a premium General Motors will charge for the electric version of the Spark. As reported before, the Spark EV will launch in "select markets" throughout the US in 2013, but what's the right price?

A loaded Spark equipped with a 1.2-liter gasoline engine comes in at well below $20,000, so maybe General Motors could keep the price of the Spark EV in the neighborhood of $20,000 range. Or will the premium for the electric version be so significant that few buyers will opt for the electric runabout over the more conventional gas-burner?

Comments

· · 2 years ago

Its ridiculous for GM (or anyone else) to try to target their next EV at such a low end unless they are willing to price it competitively with expectations for such a stereotypical econo-box. Pricing it low enough would require a serious commitment to dominating the market as they will be taking a loss for several years.
At least we'll know whether they are serious about EVs though.
If they price it at $25K or more, we'll know they aren't serious about EVs. If they price it below $20K, we'll know they are truly serious although I really think it could kill GM because of the expense to them.
Again, I think the Spark is the worst vehicle in the GM lineup to target with an electric option.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 2 years ago

Its the same size as MIEV which costs $30K, so even if GM prices it at $25K, its good.

· · 2 years ago

I think the bigger issue is what kind of range it will have. If it has 65epa miles, it competes with the $30k Mitsubishi i. If it has 75epa miles, it competes with the $35-$40k LEAF/Focus. In either case, trim level will have to satisfy as well. I don’t think a $20k price will do much for a 50epa mile car.

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 2 years ago

My 2 cents.

The ICE Spark by itself is not a bargain to begin with. Its base model is more expensive than the base Versa, yet in a class lower. Yes, you can load up all the equipments and insist that the Spark is better equipped, but that will be the same argument as a fully equipped Honda Fit vs the base level Honda Civic. Now is the Fit more expensive than the Civic, both base model?

Now on to the EV Spark. This is all speculation so our imagination can run wide. Nevertheless we can make educated guess. Short answer: no.

Battery cost isn't cheap, and if the Focus EV is of any indication, than Spark EV will be at least $35K to sell, esp due to its low production numbers. Say if it sells at iMiEV or LEAF price, then why won't one go for a larger (and better*) vehicle instead?

*Spark is an econobox to begin with. Not the case for LEAF or iMiEV.

· Pat (not verified) · 2 years ago

geez what an analysis..Spark E can be put out below $25k ..ICE costs say $15K...Take out the engine, transmission etc and add the $8K for the battery and the total cost is around $22K ...

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 2 years ago

@ Pat,

it would be in your dreams to get it to $22K.

An EV has engine and tranny too, in case if you don't know. Albeit their simplicities, that's $8K going back. Probably more because it's a limited production run.

And not only will it be a dream to use the base $15K Spark as the baseline - that's a fairy tale. Have you look at Ford, lately? (Punt intended.)

· JJ - Can (not verified) · 2 years ago

The battery's cost is off set by all the ICE parts that aren't put in the Spark:
Engine, Transmission, Exhaust system, Fuel tank, fuel pump, dozens of sensor, Cooling system, no Ignition.
The buyer also has to factor in all the gas and maintenance they will be saving on: no oil changes, no clogged EGR valves, no air filters.

· · 2 years ago

@Londo Bell

A good EV doesn't have a tranny, just a fixed reduction gear and a differential. The motor has about 1% of the parts as an ICE so, in quantity, it is significantly cheaper than an ICE.

· James (not verified) · 2 years ago

I think the problem for low-end EV's right now is that everyone is pushed to install a Level 2 charger. We have been charging our Leaf on a standard outlet for 9 months now, and the only time I've missed the Level 2 charging is on the weekends. If we need extra miles we have lunch at a place with a Level 2 charger in central Phoenix (Hula Tiki--excellent food and drinks) and we are good. Our average commute is 24 miles/day, so we easily charge up every night.

Regular outlets are everywhere, and it's too bad the EV industry has been so adamant about rapid chargers since there is an endless infrastructure of outlets already in place, and at places we spend a considerable amount of time. My wife's work has outlets on their shade structures, which would be perfect, since she's inside for eight hours and doesn't drive her car then, but there's no way to monetize the flow--yet.

· · 2 years ago

Interesting comments regarding Level 1 charging, James. It worked for me the evening I had my friend's Leaf parked in my carport last fall. But I'm certainly glad to see fast charging options available.

If you even want to come down to Tucson in your Leaf, for instance, it appears that you'll have that option before long. I spent last Saturday up at Biosphere 2 and talked at length with the folks from GoE3. In lieu Ecotality doing it, GoE3 is about to deploy Level 3 chargers along all the major Arizona roadways and beyond . . .

http://www.b2science.org/news/1234

Regarding a hope for greater simplicity in new EVs, JJ-Can, you know you've got a sympathetic ear with me. But have you taken a look, for instance, under the hood of a Leaf? Many are surprised (as I was initially) to see a radiator and associated plumbing as comprehensive as any you would find hooked up to a 4 cylinder ICE. Those big 3 phase AC electric motors put out a lot of heat.

Getting back to the Spark: I hope they do price it competitively, but I'm guessing GM will do what Ford did with the Focus EV . . . build just enough to satisfy California authorities and price it at a premium. Unless someone else steps up to the plate, Mitsubishi's i is going to have the subcompact econo-EV market in North America all to themselves.

· · 2 years ago

@James,
The problem with low-end EVs and Level 1 charging is that these don't really work for people who NEED an EV to counter doing a lot of driving. These only work for dedicated people who don't really drive very much yet are still willing to shell out the extra money for an EV instead of an ICE.
These aren't really going to serve as replacements for most ICE vehicles. I agree that if you don't drive more than about 25 miles per day, they will work fine. Available public charging is also a boon that helps you but doesn't help most people - yet.

· Spec (not verified) · 2 years ago

Pull out the ICE parts and replace them with an EV drive train . . . those should be about equal in price. Then throw in $10K of batteries. And sell it for $26K. That would be a HUGE hit. since it would be less than $19K after the tax-credit.

Do it, GM. Don't make an over-priced car like the Ford Focus Electric.

· Spec (not verified) · 2 years ago

Level 1 charging would suffice if a company were to build a light-weight aerodynamic EV that does not require much battery storage to get a reasonable range. The Aptera fit this bill. If someone could build a low-cost version of the Aptera that consumers would accept, then level 1 charging would be enough for some people.

· · 2 years ago

@Benjamin Nead, "But have you taken a look, for instance, under the hood of a Leaf? Many are surprised (as I was initially) to see a radiator and associated plumbing as comprehensive as any you would find hooked up to a 4 cylinder ICE. Those big 3 phase AC electric motors put out a lot of heat. "

The LEAF cooling system is for the charger not the motor, which doesn't need one. And since it runs at low temperatures and pressures compared to an ICE cooling system it can be expected to require a lot less maintenance.

· · 2 years ago

@dpgcolorado,
Is the radiator really for the charger? I'm asking because I don't know, and my sales rep has no idea either. But that just doesn't seem to add up to me. A radiator is designed to cool when air is flowing over it (i.e. while driving). The charger, by contrast, is only used while parked. Do you mean the motor controller?

· · 2 years ago

@Brian Schwerdt, The pumps—there are two—and cooling system are used while charging. Whether they have any use while driving I'm not sure. I don't think so, but perhaps someone with a service manual can weigh in on the subject. My car has been charging—at 16 A, 240 V—for the last hour and the cooling system pumps are running and the cooling system hoses are slightly warm, as expected. The radiator fan isn't on but it is quite cool in my garage, so that's no surprise.

· · 2 years ago

Thanks for the clarification, dpg. I've been checking out some of the DIY EV conversion sites lately and saw reference to a controller that required water cooling, which kind of surprised me. I also saw one where a water cooled AC motor was used, which I considered to be typical. Interesting that it's the computer in the Leaf that require a radiator, not the power plant.

· ICE4EVER (not verified) · 2 years ago

ICE's are so much simpler and cheaper to build than electric. What can go wrong with an internal combustion engine?

That's why I've switched out all the motors in my minivan's electric windows with small gasoline engines and tiny little 3-speed transmissions. The family loves to stop at the gas station to fuel them up, love the smell of gas and exhaust, and the extra heat on a warm day isn't all that bad either (in Atlanta).

(Now if I can just remember to keep them fueled and control them so they don't shatter the glass)

· · 2 years ago

@ICE4EVER
ROFL ,
You might also consider swapping out all of the lightbulbs with kerosene lamps!

· phil.manke@yahoo.com (not verified) · 2 years ago

I thot the Leaf's cooling is for the controller and battery, since the battery makes heat on charging and delivery of current. The reaction in the battery makes the heat either way.

· phil.manke@yahoo.com (not verified) · 2 years ago

The Li-on battery makes heat on charging or discharging.
Still, as much as I like electrics, I may need to limp along for awhile with my eighteen YO Geo getting only 50 MPG.

· · 2 years ago

Actually, Phil, the Leaf's battery pack is air cooled. So, with an air cooled motor as well, I guess that radiator is just for the controller. You've got me beat with your 18 year old Geo. I'm nursing my '95 Saturn along until I can get to a financial point where purchasing an EV is a realistic option (not to mention that my son ships off to college in a few years and, when that happens, my insurance rate drop down again!)

I have to ask, ICE4EVER, are those gasoline-powered windows cranks equipped with micro stick shift trannies or torque converters?
:-)

Seriously, though, please consider putting together a registered profile for this blog. We can use a bit of good natured levity here from time to time.

· · 2 years ago

@Benjamin,

I'm very glad you and "ex-EV1 driver" enjoyed the earlier comment for the fun it was meant.

Thank you for the friendly invite. My name's Robert Barnard, formerly (and briefly) known as ICE4EVER. I've been a lurker for while and was overwhelmed yesterday with the sudden urge to make a point about the value of electric over gas.

I'm confident my next new car will be a plug-in hybrid or EV. For the last 15 years I've tried to live a close-coupled life style and live near where I work and shop.

Thank you for this blog. I've enjoyed it and gleaned some good information.

· Citizen Tom (not verified) · 2 years ago

GM has the opportunity to blow away their competitors in the market by keeping the price of the the Spark under $25k. Some of you guys sound like comptrollers instead
of marketing people. I spent over 20 years in marketing for several multi billion dollar
companies, so I know a little something about pricing and packaging of a product.

The idea is to get the public's attention with a truly competitive price, even if you have to
take a slight loss on the first 5000 cars. The 39k price of the Volt and the Leaf really
don't get anybody's attention, particularly when they have an all-electric range of under
100 miles.
The 2013 Ford Focus EV isn't even a new car. It is the ICE version "modified" to make it an all-electric. The 2014 will be a fully redesigned Focus EV which will leave a lot more room in the cabin than is possible now.

The other thing they must do with the GM Spark is to give it at least the range
of the Leaf, a 100 mile range which really translates to 70 miles under most conditions.
If they whimp out and try to give it a range under 50 miles just to save money, they will
"shoot themselves in the foot". Sure wish we had VP Bob Lutz back at GM. If it hadn't been for him, the Volt might not have ever seen the light of day! Unfortunately, Bob Lutz retired this year.

Have heart! At least one EV manufacturer promises at least 150+ miles on their future EV models within the next two years. Sorry, can't reveal my source.

· · 2 years ago

Welcome aboard, DayHiker.

I think you're on to something, Citizen Tom. Marketing the Spark with low mileage just to keep the price down would be a mistake for GM. After all, their whole modus operandi with the Volt has been to promote its range, with the ICE backup. Obviously, they can't replicate the Volt's range in a pure EV - much less at a low price point - but it would do much for them to tout superior mileage across their EV lineup (better than loading up the Spark with psuedo-luxury gadgets.) If they did skimp on the battery size, though, they could at least offer it with 6.6kWh Level 2 charging. The Spark is also a smaller car than the Leaf. I think the Spark's main competition will be the Mitsubishi i.

I don't know who you alluding to in regards to 150+ range (although the for-rent-only-in-Europe Bollore Blue Car is, apparently, already there,) I'm going to guess it will come with Envia cells . . .

http://enviasystems.com/technology/

· · 2 years ago

20kWh battery and 6.6kW charger is the ground floor. Anything less fails, unless GM wants to compete with Mitsubishi i for last place?

· · 2 years ago

Well, I guess so, Kei. Note that GM is on board to support Level 3 J-1772 Combo (the so-called "Frankenplug") and it will be interesting to see if that will even be available on the Spark. Mitsubishi, of course, offers the CHAdeMO Level 3 on the deluxe i package. Nobody who regularly travels 100 miles nonstop is going to choose the i as their regular ride but, if Chevy doesn't give a level 3 option on "upscale" Sparks, they've simply given all the goods to Mitsubishi.

· · 2 years ago

People who think the Spark needs to or will come in under $25K are way off base unless they think GM is building another range crippled EV that won't sell. EV motors, inverters, and other EV specific components are still going to be much more expensive than their ICE counterparts because of their newer technology and still limited production numbers, no where near the volume and economy of scale of the over 100 year old ICE manufacturing industry.

· JamalTini (not verified) · 2 years ago

huzzah! http://www..pkmn.co.uk

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

Hummm, it will be interesting to see who will come out with a "simple" EV. Even Tesla doesnt really qualify since all of their products to date still have a differential. I've read alot about test cars and trucks having 4 wheel mounted direct drive (no gears of any kind) motors mounted just behind the brakes.

So why not a 2-motor, rear wheel mounted direct drive system, with manual rack and pinion steering. There would be nothing to this car. If the motors were AC, there would have to be two inverters, but each could be half sized.

As far as battery complication, the Leaf's air cooled system seems ok at least in colder climates like NY State. Im not so sure someone couldn't come up with a cost-reduced liquid cooled system anyway.

And before someone says that its impossible to get the torque required to drive a tire, look at the new direct drive AC traction elevators. These have to have smoothness and torque much better than automobiles, and they are extremely tiny, dwarfed by the traction sheeves and cables they are driving. So all you automotive engineers, start copying what the elevator industry has been doing for at least a decade now.

· · 2 years ago

@Bill Howland,
The biggest problem with the direct drive on the wheel is that you are adding a lot of mass to the unsprung wheel. Suspending the motor with the rest of the body means that mass doesn't have to be bounced around on road bumps. This allows the suspension to keep more of the tire on the road in bumps and protects the motor from all of the harshness of the road.
It might work for slow-speed vehicles.
Now, if a separate motor were suspended but driving each wheel via a drive shaft then a lot of control would be available. 4 motors would obviate the need for brakes and allow control systems to provide nearly optimal automatic stability control.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

@ex-EV1-driver

Well, ok, 2 points.

1). There is an additional unsprung weight at the 2 wheels, but Fisker has almost gotten there with a high speed motor and a gear box. In the articles I've read no one has mentioned your concern as a limiting factor, and for one thing you lose the weight of the axle. (Yes I realize you can only count 1/2 the weight or there abouts). The Fisker is a high-performance vehicle. I was merely commenting on GM coming up with a EV Spark, or other very moderate performance vehicle. Yes, GM or whomever comes out with it will still have to hire a Mechanical Engineer to iron out small details.

2). There you go complicating everything again. My elevator example still had a mechanical brake. It doesn't do anything in normal operation but is there for ultimate safety. I'd want this car to be just as safe.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

@ex-Ev1-Driver

Ok admittedly I do have to renig on the articles thing, I did find an article where the big complaint was unsprung weight. Ultimately though I'm not worried about this since the prime example of this technology (at least according to Protean) is their F150 4 wheel drive supertruck. This thing adds 68 lbs per wheel, (440 hp total) but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a 2 wheel drive very moderately powered motor could be made lighter. I'm thinking under 100 hp total. The VW beetle had 25 hp, 36 hp, and 40 hp engines until 1966 and as you know, no American Auto Executive bought it saying it was ugly, underpowered, old-fashioned, etc. But it became the world's most popular vehicle. So therefore I don't assign Great Weight to statements saying something can't be done for whatever reason when it has Already Been Done. The Protean system has supposedly already taken care of the road shock issue by transferring all the jarring to the hub instead of the motor 'feeling' it. Even the protean system seems to me to be somewhat more complicated than necessary (perhaps its needed to satisfy the requirements of a 'super truck') but I'd be more than happy with very simple, cost-reduced (some would say underpowered) 0-60 mph in 13 seconds, 2 wheel drive. The "sophisticated control" problem could be reduced in complexity by simply limiting the power to either wheel.
Sometimes auto designers are 'stick in the muds'. Bob Lutz related the story about how he was advised by GM's Crack Team of engineers that EV's can't possibly be built. They had egg on their face when a few guys out in California in their spare time came out with a basically converted Lotus EV.

· · 2 years ago

Wheel motors suffer from lack of torque multiplication through gearing. That means they have to put out many times more torque at start up than a motor hooked up to a gear reduction. High torque means high current at low speed, lots of heat in the motor, lots of current and heat through the inverter. Protean has never demonstrated anything at speed or in real world use. Wheel motors have many many drawbacks and few advantages. I doubt they will ever be successful in anything larger than a motorcycle. Tesla has shown how compact a motor and gear reduction combination can be.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

@JRP3

Sorry man, your post is totally inaccurate. Direct Drive AC traction elevators obviously run at very slow speed. (they run at the speed of the hoisting cable / 6.28; remember, C= 2Pi * sheeve radius).
The only thing they do slowly is that for a substantial period of time they run at a very low frequency, but that comes from an inverter from a high voltage DC link, so who cares? Efficiency is very high, and for the accountant paying the power bill, thats all that matters.

As far as never doing anything real world, and I have no personal interest in Protean, but just using them as an example, making a 4 wheel direct drive 440 hp ford f150 is a very very huge acheivement.

How many people have accomplished more than this? Therefore, I'd be very reluctant to criticize them unless they can do something better. I have purchased a Tesla, but I have to be honest and admit they have not to date come up with a 4 wheel drive 440 hp drive unit which is direct drive. They have had problems with burned out motors and ruined gear boxes, but maybe that's just their uncommorn honesty that we're allowed to view their flubs.

· · 2 years ago

Protean has never demonstrated a 440 hp anything, they simply claimed that, and showed it moving at slow speed. You want to believe their hype, go ahead. Even if they did that there is zero reliability data or evidence that the wheel motors can hold up to constant real world use. I'm sure I could put together a 4 wheel motor EV that could survive a few passes, but I also know it wouldn't last, or be worth the time, money, and effort.

Sure an elevator motor can run at low speed, it's wound for it and probably heavily over built and under rated, as most industrial motors are, exactly the opposite of what you want in a wheel motor. You're enamored of the idea without taking a good look at the practical drawbacks. No serious EV builder is using a wheel motor. I'll let you figure out why. I went through this same discussion with someone a few years ago who was sure he could build an affordable wheel motor. Now three years later he's switching to a standard motor and gear reduction setup. Every single person or company that tried to do a car sized wheel motor has failed. PML Flightlink failed, and became Protean, who has also failed. I'm sure others will keep trying, even though the physics will never change.

· · 2 years ago

By the way, I don't know what the normal elevator setup is but a quick google shows a lot of them using gear reductions.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

Yeah, that one point is true JRP3. You are not familiar with normal elevator set ups. Geared machines are used where low first cost is wanted, but efficiency is typically 70% of the direct drive machines, or less. The cost of the machine is determined primarily by the torque involved. A tiny mechanical brake is used on geared machines since the retarding torque of the brake is multiplied by the typically worm gear box.

I'm assuming EV's dont use this trick because people who ride the brake would wear out a tiny one in a hurry, negating the cost savings. So this is one more cost in favor of direct drive (since the impossible to use supposedly system already has direct drive brakes). At elevator car speeds much above 400 feet/ minute, direct drive is mandatory, since too much gearbox vibration comes into the car. But then Elevator requirements are much more stringent since people get nervous at the slightest perceived problem in an elevator.

Im not enamored with direct drives. I merely give credit where it is due. Both my current EV's have gearboxes (I hope the pinion gear in the Tesla lasts past the end of warranty, but time will tell), and for the next 10 years I would assume all Teslas will have differntial gearing and all Volts will have synergy drives (planetary gearsets). But it may not always be the case.

Here *IS* what I'm enamored with: the concept of a VW beetle - like simplified electric car without a lot of junk, sillyness, needless horsepower nor needless complication, similar to the VW beetle, which incidentally had differential gearing.. I'll be one of the first purchasers of a vehicle made by the first reputable manufacturer coming out with such a vehicle (even with a gearbox).

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

Yeah, that one point is true JRP3. You are not familiar with normal elevator set ups. Geared machines are used where low first cost is wanted, but efficiency is typically 70% of the direct drive machines, or less. The cost of the machine is determined primarily by the torque involved. A tiny mechanical brake is used on geared machines since the retarding torque of the brake is multiplied by the typically worm gear box.

I'm assuming EV's dont use this trick because people who ride the brake would wear out a tiny one in a hurry, negating the cost savings. So this is one more cost in favor of direct drive (since the impossible to use supposedly system already has direct drive brakes). At elevator car speeds much above 400 feet/ minute, direct drive is mandatory, since too much gearbox vibration comes into the car. But then Elevator requirements are much more stringent since people get nervous at the slightest perceived problem in an elevator.

Im not enamored with direct drives. I merely give credit where it is due. Both my current EV's have gearboxes (I hope the pinion gear in the Tesla lasts past the end of warranty, but time will tell), and for the next 10 years I would assume all Teslas will have differntial gearing and all Volts will have synergy drives (planetary gearsets). But it may not always be the case.

Here *IS* what I'm enamored with: the concept of a VW beetle - like simplified electric car without a lot of junk, sillyness, needless horsepower nor needless complication, similar to the VW beetle, which incidentally had differential gearing.. I'll be one of the first purchasers of a vehicle made by the first reputable manufacturer coming out with such a vehicle (even with a gearbox).

· M Lucas (not verified) · 2 years ago

The Mitsubishi i is sure getting short shrift in this posting. I'm here to defend the plucky little EV. Everyone is so tied up over the range, this is ridiculous. 62 miles is more than enough for most peoples commutes and Mitsubishi decided to keep costs down by giving adequate range instead of stellar range.

These are the compromises with today's EVs - they can be fast, they can be long range but they won't be cheap. You can't have all three.

I've spoken to several i owners that live in areas where L2 and L3 chargers are abundant and they do over 250 miles a day with the Mitsubishi i. All we are lacking is the infrastructure, with that we can have smaller lighter battery packs and less expensive EVs to boot.

But, even without that, I drive my i regularly for work everyday and have not had a problem with the range. I'll take my extra samolies and put em' towards my solar panels for my roof. Thank you very much.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

@M Lucas:

Please inform us as to the Mitsubishi Drive system.. Is it direct drive with no differential?

· · 2 years ago

I can guarantee it's not, no one builds an EV without a gear reduction.

· Danpatgal (not verified) · 2 years ago

I also have an i Miev and really enjoy driving it. The Spark would be a good alternative in the same class - I'm guessing. I was just tired of waiting for all those rosy promises from manufacturers to actually materialize. I've been very happy with the i ... more than I thought I'd be (and my expectations actually were pretty high).

The i has a "single fixed reduction gear transmission", which I believe is the same concept that basically ever other factory EV (Leaf, Tesla, FFE) uses. It has a ratio of 7:1 (7 turns of the motor for every 1 turn of the wheel).

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