Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens...
GM Touts Virtues of 2014 Spark Electric Vehicle
General Motors has announced that its 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV (short for Electric Vehicle) will offer "industry-leading EV power, outstanding driving range, and exceptional fast-charge capability." The Spark EV is due to arrive in California car dealerships next summer.
Spark EV's engineers took advantage of much of the expertise that GM has gained in constructing the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid vehicle introduced in the U.S. in late 2010. Spark EV uses many of the same components and systems as the Chevrolet Volt.
Spark EV's lithium-ion battery pack, with more than 20 kilowatt hours (kWh), has undergone over 200,000 hours of testing in GM's global battery systems lab, according to Larry Nitz, who leads GM's global electrification engineering team.
The vehicle, which can accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than eight seconds, was designed to be more fun to drive than other electric vehicles in an effort to attract more customers.
"What we think customers will enjoy most is how fun Spark EV is to drive. It's seamless and power is available at every stage of the drive," said Chuck Russell, Spark EV's chief engineer. "This will help us to provide an exciting option for those customers who are looking for an EV that's as much fun to drive as it is environmentally responsible."
General Motors has not yet announced the vehicle's driving range, other than that it will "provide EV range among the best in the segment." Most EVs can travel between 100 and 200 miles on a single charge.
The new Spark EV will lead the industry in charge time, according to GM. The battery can be restored to 80 percent of capacity in approximately 20 minutes.
GM has yet to announce sales projections and has not said when the vehicles will be available in the U.S. outside of California. GM has achieved modest success with its Chevy Volt, selling just over 30,000 worldwide since 2010.
GM has also announced that OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary, has added two updates to its offerings of mobile apps to manage EV charging.
First, OnStar has released a prototype app called Park-Tap-Charge that will allow EV owners to simply tap their smartphone against a charging station to show payment options and initiative the flow of electricity.
"It's all about transacting through the app to create a very connected vehicle experience," said Paul Pebbles, global manager of OnStar Electric Vehicle and Smart Grid Services. "This type of functionality contributes to an end-to-end solution for owners of the infrastructure and drivers."
The app, which uses the Near Field Communication technology that has been embraced by mobile payments developers, anticipates the increased demand for public charging stations as electric vehicles become more common.
Secondly, OnStar is updating its RemoteLink app, which allows drivers to manage and monitor charging remotely. The update will now let drivers use a Waypoint tab to determine if they can reach their destination on a single charge.
"The Spark EV Waypoint tab aims to instill confidence in drivers who are not sure if they'll be able to reach their destination on a single charge," said Pebbles. "It's also for drivers who know they'll be traveling beyond a single charge range."
Image credit: Steve Fecht for General Motors