GM acknowledges all electric car market

Chevrolet SparkChevy goes all electric

Choosing to acknowledge that every major manufacturer is going to need an all electric vehicle in their lineup, Chevrolet has recently announced the introduction of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark – an all electric four passenger city car. And therein lies the problem, as we see it.

The Spark is a GM world car, already being sold in Australia, Europe, India, Korea, India and South America. In these markets it is offered with a 1.0 liter or 1.2 liter gasoline engine. We know how successful these cars have been in the United States. Oh… that’s right… nobody sells these cars in the United States. Wonder why? Because nobody wants them.

Oh alright. Fiat just released the Fiat 500 here, but even that has a 1.4 liter engine with 101 horsepower. The 1.2 liter gasoline version of the Spark to be made available in the US will offer a grand total of 83 horsepower. Somehow, we don’t see people lining up to buy a Korean designed vehicle that is underpowered just because it’s inexpensive. At least the Fiat has a little bit of history on its side to help with the marketing.

Chevrolet Spark cutaway image

So GM figures they will just take out the gasoline drivetrain and drop in an electric motor and they will have an all electric car for the masses. The problem that we have with the idea of electric vehicles (EVs) being marketed as city cars is that it perpetuates the idea of EV as glamorized golf cart. And, once again, we have to make our point that a four seat vehicle will not accommodate those families with three kids. We see lots of arguments by mainstream media that all EVs should be city cars for just one or two occupants as they will only be used for commuting. We vehemently disagree. We use our LEAF for transporting our family around town. We take the kids to school, run errands, and do all of the things that everyone else does in their gasoline vehicles. We just happen to do it in an electric car. By the way, one of the things that we don’t use our LEAF for is commuting. (We must admit though – we likely fall into a rather narrow demographic in that regard). We also don’t use it for long-distance travel.

A recent survey of new car buyers suggested that if they were to consider an EV, the vehicle of choice would be a mid-sized sedan. While the LEAF is a hatchback, the interior passenger volume puts it in the mid-sized sedan category. If a huge chunk of the population is not quite ready for EVs, when those EVs are wrapped up in mini-car bodies, we feel that the appeal drops even further. GM expects to make the Spark EV available starting in 2013.

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5 Responses to GM acknowledges all electric car market

  1. Warren says:

    Well, I did not buy the Leaf I had reserved precisely because it was a mid-sized sedan. I decided to hold out for a sensible sized car for someone who put 397,000 miles on a two-door, four passenger car…almost entirely commuting alone.

    • Tom K says:

      You are missing out on an excellent car…

    • Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) says:

      Warren – just as manufacturers build a wide variety of gasoline powered vehicles, we will see, over time, a wide variety of electric vehicles as well. You will eventually have at least three vehicles to choose from. As Sasparilla pointed out, the Toyota/Scion iQ (first as an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, later as an EV), the Mitsubishi i, and the Chevy Spark. We may be wrong, and there may be a larger market for these vehicles. All three will be even more limited production than the LEAF initially, and all will follow the Nissan lead of rolling out in waves across the country, rather than nationwide availability immediately. More information can be found on each at the manufacturer’s web sites.

  2. Sasparilla says:

    It was definitely a bad choice by GM – they’ve set themselves up to clean the bottom of the sales numbers for EV’s by battling it out with Toyota’s iQ EV for the not so practical EV vehicles. As you pointed out its an extremely small vehicle (significantly smaller than the Leaf), it also has a very small battery so its range will be even more limited than the Leaf.

    This vehicle will meet the requirement for the California zero emissions requirement but that’s about all it’ll do, very disappointing – like bad old GM management decisions. Good news for the Leaf as it still has no serious competition other than the Ford Focus EV which will be production limited (no real numbers since it was originally designed and much of it is produced by a supplier) until the 2nd generation vehicle.

    The sad thing is that GM already had an EV (component wise) ready to go (and probably designed) and that’s the Volt with the ICE and plumbing removed and a bigger battery. I remember Bob Lutz talking about a debate at the executive level to meet the zero emissions requirement for California with him proposing the Volt EV and the government funded Hydrogen section pushing their proposal, presumably at the time the Hydrogen wing got that bone – although now it looks like they’ve decided to go for this wishy washy choice.

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