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Chevrolet to produce Spark battery electric vehicle for US and global markets starting in 2013 with A123 Systems pack; EN-V gets a Chevrolet badge

12 October 2011

Spark_Cutaway
Cutaway of the Chevrolet Spark all-electric vehicle. Click to enlarge.

Chevrolet announced it will produce an all-electric version of the Chevrolet Spark mini-car—the Spark EV. It will be sold in limited quantities in select US and global markets starting in 2013, including California. A123 Systems will supply the advanced nanophosphate lithium-ion battery packs that will power the Spark EV.

Feedback from participants in Chevrolet’s electric vehicle demonstration fleets (earlier post) in Shanghai (Sail EV), Korea (Cruze EV) and India (Beat EV) are being incorporated into the Spark EV. GM will announce details on specific markets, range, quantities and pricing announced later.

The Spark EV offers customers living in urban areas who have predictable driving patterns or short commutes an all-electric option. It complements Chevrolet’s growing range of electrified vehicles, including the Volt extended-range EV and the 2013 Malibu Eco with eAssist technology.

Our global demo fleets continue to provide insight into the needs of electric vehicle customers living in urban environments. The Spark EV is another step in Chevrolet’s plan to provide customers with a variety of electrification solutions to address the lifestyle and transportation needs of people around the world.

—Jim Federico, global vehicle chief engineer for electric vehicles at Chevrolet.

2011-Concept-Chevrolet-EN-V-051
Chevrolet EN-V concept. Click to enlarge.

Next-gen EN-V. GM will explore pilot programs in selected megacities around the world with the next-generation of its EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle) concept (earlier post), according to Chris Perry, vice president, global Chevrolet marketing and strategy. He also told media assembled in advance of Chevrolet’s 3 Nov Centennial celebration that future EN-V concepts will carry a Chevrolet badge.

By 2030, more than 60 percent of the world’s 8 billion people will live in urban areas. The Chevrolet EN-V represents a possible solution for global customers living in markets where alternative transportation solutions are needed.

—Chris Perry

Introduced during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, EN-V was designed to address environmental issues and help alleviate traffic congestion, parking, safety concerns and energy consumption.

The next-generation Chevrolet EN-V concept will add new features such as climate control, personal storage space and all-weather and road condition operation while preserving key elements of the original EN-V, such as the small footprint and maneuverability. It will also retain its battery electric propulsion, connectivity and autonomous driving capabilities.

In April, GM and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co. Ltd. (SSTEC) signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on integrating the next-generation EN-V into the Tianjin Eco-City from a power, communications and physical infrastructure perspective.

Chevrolet will explore other locations around the world—including the United States—for potential pilot programs.

The EN-V is a zero-emissions vehicle powered by lithium-ion batteries. Recharging from a conventional wall outlet using standard household power allows EN-V to travel at least 40 kilometers (25 miles) on a single charge, an acceptable range for most urban trips.

By combining GPS with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies, the EN-V can be driven manually or autonomously. In autonomous mode, EN-V offers mobility to people who may not otherwise operate a vehicle. By leveraging wireless communications, it allows drivers and occupants to communicate hands-free with friends or business associates while on the go.

The ability to communicate with other vehicles and with the infrastructure could help EN-V significantly reduce the number of vehicle crashes and make it easier to find available parking spaces. It could also reduce traffic congestion by automatically selecting the fastest route based on real-time traffic information.

This technology platform of electric propulsion, sensors, wireless communications and GPS-based navigation is likely to migrate from the EN-V concept to other automobiles and could lead the way to safer, cleaner vehicles in the future.

—Chris Borroni-Bird, GM’s director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts

October 12, 2011 in Electric (Battery) | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)

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Get those contracts, A123.

It is super that GM finally started developing BEVs. However, in order to do a really great BEV they need to start from scratch with a dedicated BEV chassis as Tesla and Nissan have done it. Make it lightweight in aluminum and with a big flat battery in the floor so that it does not compromise truck space in any way. And most importantly make it able to charge as fast as possible. Minimum 50kW and preferable 90kW as in Tesla’s model S. The batteries from A123 may be just the one on the market that can do 90kW in a small 18kWh pack and still have a respectable energy density of over 100Wh/kg.

Good approach Henrik but too much efforts for GM. Many others will do it right.

Interesting to see the vision for the EN-V. A pilot program with a section of roadway (highway - or urban street) utilizing the automated mode would be productive.

As for the Spark, not sure where the battery pack is in the illustration. They indicate a standard 12V Pb battery in the picture... Why? And it's doubtful for a utility EV we'll see bells and whistles like Tesla.

Utility EVs will be low cost transport vehicles with bare minimum design elements and simple EV drive trains. Aluminum frames and flat tabletop batteries may be too expensive for a worker car. GM will do this because their China partners can build fast and cheap.

I think the Spark EV is going to be in the same category as the Leaf, except probably even shorter range. A123 recharges pretty fast, though, right? Urban environment is really best case for small EV, because range is actually longer when your average speed is 35 mph.

@Reel$$: not sure where the battery pack is in the illustration.

Look to the right begween the rear wheels.

Reel you may be right. The conventional wisdom in the auto industry is that aluminum in most cases is still too expensive a substitute for steel with the exception of high priced performance cars where some parts should be made of aluminum. Tesla’s model S has gone most of the way making most of the chassis and the plate work in aluminum and some industry observers believe that will make the model S too costly to produce. We will see.

The increased cost of aluminum must be caused by increased processing cost as aluminum is not an expensive material. Raw steel currently cost about 700 USD per ton and can in principle be replaced by 0.45 ton of raw aluminum that cost about 1100 USD. The difference 400 USD is not enough to explain why automakers do not use more of it as it can make a huge difference in the weight of the car. It has to be the processing costs that make aluminum more expensive than steel. The auto industry has spend over 100 years on optimizing the processing cost for steel but has barely been working with aluminum for more than 30 years and only for some parts mostly the making of engine parts. What are needed are high speed techniques for making body structures and plate works in aluminum.

I am convinced that aluminum is the way to go with battery electric cars because the substantial weight reductions possible by using aluminum can be used to reduce the size of the battery pack that is needed to obtain a given range for the vehicle. Each kWh of battery that you don’t need because of aluminum enabled weight reductions will save between 500 and 1000 USD in making the battery pack. That should be enough to cover the extra cost of using aluminum even in a small battery electric car like GM’s Spark.

PS The standard (probably Pb) battery at the front is the battery that runs the car’s essential systems like brakes and servo steering if the main battery in the back fails. The Leaf also got one.

I'd like to see more use of composites instead of aluminum. Composite body panels over an aluminum frame should be very light weight and I'd think composites take less energy than aluminum to create, but I could be wrong. Resins and fabrics can be bio based instead of petroleum.

IMO, I don't think flash bainite steel can be beat from a weight, strength, or cost standpoint.

http://www.bainitesteel.com/

It was highlighted here on GCC about six months ago. I think a flash bainite steel body with FRP body panels is probably the way to go.

@Henrik: I agree with your view of vehicle architecture but I think that the Spark's layout is pretty efficient given how compact it is.

Aluminium, being easy to recycle over and over again, (with clean electricity) is not only lighter than steel but could shortly become competitive for e-vehicles due to very high cost of large batteries.

Eventually, composites could also play an important role in future much lighter e-vehicles.

It took centuries for carriages to go from wood to steel. Will it take that long to go from steel to aluminium and composites?

Well, it did take 16 years to go from the EV1 to the Spark.

@GreenPlease
I am not a material expert at all but my conviction is based on the development of the aviation industry that went from making planes of wood and textiles to using high strength steel to using aluminum and now with the Dreamliner the industry is set to go all carbon fiber. The same will happen in the auto industry, I think, and it will happen sooner for battery electric cars than for cars with combustion engines because of the sizable battery cost savings that can be obtained with reduced weight for any given target range for the BEV. The auto industry has so far not focused on weight for non-performance cars because it did not matter as it only reduced the mpg that people did not care about because gasoline has been below 1.5 USD per gallon for most of the history of the auto industry. Now things have changed and higher gas prices, expensive batteries plus new regulation on better mpg means that auto-makers are forced to make car that use the fuel more efficiently. The light weighting of cars will be a very important instrument to that end especially for electric cars that already have very efficient drivetrains with little scope for improvements. As a rule of thumb a 10% weight reduction will give you 6% better mpg or alternatively reduce the kWh size of the battery pack with 6% without reducing range. For the Leaf a 10% weight reduction could drop the price of the required battery to maintain its 73 miles EPA rating by 1080 USD (=24kwh*6%*750 USD per kWh). Make a 30% reduction and the savings are over 3000 USD. That should be enough to pay for more expensive light weight materials such as aluminum. You also get the benefit of much better acceleration that will make the car fun to drive. Wait and see the next generation leaf that should be available by 2015 to 2017 will be substantially less heavy.

@Harvey
I think you have much exaggerated expectations for how fast things will happen in the auto-industry. Expect this Spark EV to cost 29.000 USD when it comes out in 2013 and it will have a range and speed similar to the iMiEV. That is 60 miles and 75 mph. In a best case scenario the Nissan Leaf will sell for about 25000 USD by 2020 and with the same range as it has today: 73 miles. Optional better range will cost more. I expect 5000 USD per 50 miles more range. Weight reductions could improve the top speed from 90 mph to 105 mph and the acceleration from 0 to 60mph in 7.5 sec instead of 10.5 sec in the current Leaf. Hopefully, the 2020 Leaf will also come with 90kW fast charging.

Henrik...to increase (double ? and more) e-range on Leaf-2; improved batteries, more efficient e-ancillaries, improved e-control systems and a much lighter vehicle may be required. I have no doubt that all of that will come true (without exaggeration) within about 5 years.

Nissan cannot currently produce enough Leaf to satisfy demands in many countries. Leaf-2 (2016-?)and Leaf-3 (2021-?) will sell even better.

A larger (Leaf-America) could get more local buyers but at the present state of battery evolution, it would cost too much, unless it could be made much lighter. Improved batteries and lighter body will have to wait for the Leaf-2 and Leaf-3.

Henrik...Nissan may sell as many as 25,000 Leaf this year and over 60,000 in 2012 etc etc ...NOT by 25,000 by 2020.


By 2020 Nissan may be selling Leaf-2, Leaf-3, Leaf-America and extended range Leaf-FC (using their new reduced size much cheaper FC) at a rate of about 250,000 to 500,000 a year and they will be built in Japan, China, USA, EU, Canada, Australia and possibly in Brazil too.

The Leaf family has a great future.

You may be underestimating what good (Nissan-Renault) management can do.

Harvey 25000 USD

Henrik...you are correct. I miss read that part. Yes $25,000 (in 2010 $$$) is a possibility by 2020. Nobody knows what the $$ will be worth in 2020. One way to pay back part of the huge debt and retain more manufacturing facilities is to let the dollar drop by another 25% to 50%.

The platform is actually pretty good for electrics, the battery is entirely contained under the rear seats at the expense of space for a spare tire and perhaps some cargo room.. but it looks like the rear seats will fold down and give you a flat cargo floor.. unlike the Ford Focus conversion.

Unfortunately it appears any rear crash damage will get into the battery, keep an eye on insurance rates. Battery life should be VERY good otherwise.

Could we revisit the 6% battery pack size drop with a 10% drop in car weight?

The Leaf weighs 3354 (curb weight). The battery pack weighs 660 pounds. A 10% drop in car weight should mean a 10% drop in battery pack size/weight to move the vehicle the same number of miles.

Since about 20% (660/3354) of the battery pack is being used to move the battery pack itself there should be another roughly 20% drop in needed capacity for a 12% decrease in battery pack.

Or am I misunderstanding something?

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