Cap'n, just as the EV-1 was created to satisfy the California mandate, this one will as well. With a 20-kWh battery, the range will probably be under 100 mi. This is just a commuter car. I say this about the range by comparison with the Tesla Roadster, which has a 53-kWh battery. That car has a reasonable range, but you still have to worry about finding charging stations.
It is important for the car companies to build and sell these types of vehicles, if only to collect data on the type. On the other hand, you won't make money on them. Once battery technology improves dramatically, or fuel cells become practical, this will change. That may be a ways off.
Naperlou, many auto execs agree with you. Several of the vehicles coming out now are regarded as "compliance cars" -- cars that are being built to satisfy the California ZEV mandate. That would include the Fiat 500e (story to appear soon).
Not being from the West Coast, how does that mandate work? Do the manufacturers only have to have a certain percent of their fleet available as ZEV, or do they actually have to find buyers for a percent?
It is surprising that they are introducing this without mentioning range. While you can get away with waiting on some features, one would think that range is still one of the first questions that would be asked by anybody even remotely considering one of these.
Nice to see A123 getting some use. It's ability many other Lithiums don't have of very fast charging is a good advantage.
The Cal mandate also applies to IIRC 13 other states that have adopted it.
Because of it's lighter weight, thus rolling drag, 20kwhrs might get it more than 100m mile range.
As far as range 60 miles handles 90% of US car trips easily. Yet all these need for this size EV is a 10kw generator for unlimited range. They all should have a space designed to use such as a well done one need only weight 50-70lbs or so.
I just built one at 4.5kw in 40lbs using a stock engine. Could even fit on a trailer hitch and owned or rented for longer trips would make it a one car small family, stident or retiree vehicle that costs little to run.
Along with range, they didn't mention how that the car is heated or cooled. Isn't that a factor? I keep wondering about the draw from the heater/AC in an EV. But it is never mentioned.
I guess we could live with AC....I did while growing up and never minded. But here in the northern and mountain states a heater is a necessity half the year. For that matter, in parts of Calif. as well.
Thanks for the slide show! The interior looks great. Nicely done. The body, like most EV's and hybrids, is stale and unattractive. With the exception of the first car from Tesla, there's nothing inspiring on the road.
EVs have to do better than 100 miles per charge going forward. As a Californian, that may not be enough for a very busy day. Especially down south in the Los Angeles area. This is a BIG state.
Your calculations sound right, but I doubt if that charging option will be available from a 110V outlet. In a home-usage scenario, you'd probably charge it up over a couple hours or so, from a 220V outlet. That's fine for me though, since I drive more than 50 miles per day ... maybe once every couple weeks or so.
It would be very cool to see charging stations, such as at large truck stops on Interstates and other large freeways. The Spark may be able to go from Austin to Houston or back with only one 20min stop. I'm guessing that it's more likely to have an 80-90 mile real-world range (air conditioner or heater on), which would require two stops on the way.
One 20-minute break wouldn't be much of a problem (if not desirable) but two might be a little annoying. Then again, I only take that sort of trip two or three times a year, so I might just rent a car instead.
You are absolutely correct that fast charging would not be from a residential 110 volt outlet. But 220 volts gets the current down to 218 amps! Most residences are serviced from 440 volt lines which gets it down to 109 amps.
Even allowing 2 hours gets it down to only 36.3 amps on a 220 volt line. No residence has that kind of wiring either.
My point is that the article is misleading when it makes that claim. So, what else is misleading or just plain false?
Charging stations are fine but will have to charge (oh bad choice of words) for the electricity. In my state, 10kwH costs $1.90 at retail rates. What would the owner of a charging station have to charge to get a reasonable return on his investment?
JayBee: Thank you to readers such as yourself who said the vehicle can't be charged in 20 minutes from a home outlet. You are absolutely correct. Our earlier story about the SAE fast-charge standard explained that SAE fast-charging is for public charging stations. Click the link to the earlier story to learn more. In the meantime, we are adding a sentence in this story to explain that the battery can be charged from a 240V home outlet in seven hours. My apologies for the omission and thanks again for your comments.
The article says that the Spark supports a 20-minute 80% charging cycle. That doesn't imply that homes can support it.
I'd expect that 99.5% of the time you'd charge it overnight at home, but three or four times per year, you'd need that fast charging cycle, and it will be very desirable to have. Assuming that somebody buys, literally and figuratively, the premise of such a vehicle, then I bet such customers would be willing to pay for that charging cycle on the few rare occasions its needed.
I perceive this car to be optimized for normal day-to-day driving within the range of a typical metropolitan area and its suburbs. Anything else will require rare and somewhat-extreme measures, which is what I perceive this 20-minute charging cycle to be.
I can imagine this sort of vehicle being my family's primary vehicle, but where we also have a cheap, reliable, old Toyota Corolla, say. I drive the Spark frequently, my wife occasionally drives the Corolla while I'm out at work (she doesn't work outside the house), and we, two or three times per year, hop into to take long road trips. In other words, 80-90% of the driving would be in a Spark or Leaf, but we still have a ho-hum gasoline car for comparatively rare cases when we need to drive to different at the same time, or need to take long road trips. I expect that's the sort of use case GM, Nissan and others have in mind for this sort of vehicle.
If we take the battery capacity, 20kWH, and divide that by 746 watts per horsepower we get a potential battery capacity of putting out only 26.8 horsepower for 1 hour. That is pitiful compared to a gasoline or diesel fueled engine. Then turn on an air conditioner and the range drops even further. I don't think GM will sell many of these turkeys in Southern Arizona.
With the Oldsmobile now defunct maybe GM should call its Spark the "Obamamobile."
Once you get a car moving at a consistent speed, you don't need very much horsepower, especially if it has a low drag coefficient, and this looks like it probably does. Regenerative braking helps a lot with stop&go traffic. More fundamentally though, this sort of car you do the equivalent of going to the gas station every night, at home (takes 5-10 seconds to plug or unplug it). So, it doesn't need much total energy in the battery.
On a straight & level freeway at 65 mph, the battery will last about an hour and a half, assuming a reasonable Cd*A. That's 45 minutes there and 45 minutes back-- not much range at best. Add a few hills (downhill regeneration helps but the efficiency isn't 100%) turn on the heater or A/C and things get worse. Oh, yes-- roll down the windows and the Cd goes up.
Charge the battery back up at work? Where-- I don't see any charging stations there. Even if the employer installed charging stations, a few hundred cars all trying to use the charging stations at the same time would draw an enormous amount of AC power.
Obamamobiles are building on the experiences of the Volt-- what, they catch fire too?
I perceive that the Spark is primarily marketed for in-city and suburban driving, which would involve only short spans at 65MPH model.
We'll have to see what sorts of range numbers come back from ... well, forget GM, and take EPA numbers with a bag of rock salt; I'll listen to Consumer Reports. :-)
From what I've seen so far of the Spark, which is very little, I'd find the Leaf more interesting. However, if the Spark does come back with a substantially larger real-world range (probably not likely), then that might change.
'Normal' charge for a home charger would almost certainly be at 220V. I have no actual info on their plan, but I'd bet that the 20 minute variety is done on 480V 3 phase (277V from each 'hot' to ground), which would drop the current demand to under 60 amps per leg. 480 V 3 phase is available in most large buildings.
A DC Fast charge can do this but not a home charging system. The DC fast charge is in the 50KW range and isn't needed for home based charging. EV's have an on board charging system that operates at 3.3KW to 6.6KW resulting in a capacity recovery of 15miles of range per hour to 30 miles of range per hour. And to take advantage of lower electrical pricing, programable timers provide charging windows which are easy to setup and use.
I have been driving a LEAF for 19 months, completely trouble free. When I plug in to charge I don't wait to watch for it. It's like plugging in your phone to charge, plug in and when you are ready to go, unplug and go.
It's really hard to convince people that it works. Just look at all these comments - at least Design News is getting the story out.
You are correct, Ratsky. And since I started this debate by not being specific enough, let me expand on this. SAE's DC fast-charge standard is for three-phase power. The vast majority of homes do not have three-phase (although I've heard of rare exceptions). But this is NOT THE ONLY type of charging called out in SAE's standard. SAE's J1772 standard specifies four kinds of charging: AC Level 1; AC Level 2; DC Level 1; and DC Level 2. AC Level 1 operates at 120V and recharges a battery-electric car in about 17 hours. AC Level 2 operates at 240V and recharges a battery-electric car in a range of times, from 1.2 hours to seven hours. Chevy Spark is CAPABLE of using DC Level 2 charging, which operates at voltages ranging from 200V to 500V, and currents up to 200A. With this type of charging, the Spark's battery can be charged to 80% capacity in as little as 20 minutes. But again, three-phase is generally used in industrial settings, although it is beginning to be employed in public charging stations. Most homes use single-phase, not three-phase, power. So if you charge at home, and if you have a dedicated 240V charger, you can re-charge the Spark in seven hours.
Did I see a hint of Ayn Rand a the end of the article? Manufacturing because the government said so?
EV's will only sell when there range is comparable to fueled vehicles, recharge quickly, and priced equally (without subsidies). Not sure if the physics works out for the first two items as the definition of quickly recharging has to be the same as refueling. No one likes to stand around for 20 minutes to recharge. Though I suspect this would be a marketing boom to convience stores!
In Design News, much confusion about chargers, time, capacity. Very frustrating and aggravating to those of us who value our engineering profession and study before we publicly spew.
Cars with glove compartments in the back that house volatile, high energy storage connections are not hatch backs. They are emergency response calls waiting for a time and place.
Cars that demonstrate drag coefficiencts of .3 and above are not smart.
Cars with back doors that require you to be as agile as gumby and weigh less 120 lb. are not four doors.
EV are not ICE. Never will be. Not in range, load, power, or availability. ICE spew combustion products at point of use. EV cars spew energy generation combustion byproducts in somebody else's backyard. Stop having your thought processes being manipulated by marketers and regulators.
Compliance cars benefit the manufacturers not the consumers. Their distribution(sale) should be by lease only.
The fact that EV cars have so little range and are so complex as to be likely incapacitated or unsafe to drive with as little as a 5 MPH collision, their location and status should be continuously monitored and retrieved like rental cars. If you want freedom, you don't want an EV. You want a harley.
The fact that the front grill and the "fuel" hatch look like an ICE configuration should tell us that the designers are not being smart. They're hood-winking us. We should be offended.
Charles--has there been any mention of Federal rebates relative to purchase? $25K for this car, in my opinion, is excessive and it definitely would be a "commuter car" and not used for long road trips or a lengthy commute. I would expect some monetary incentives to be a necessity to promote sales.
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