After months of rumors about a possible 200-mile electric car from Detroit automaker General Motors, the company’s global product chief Mark Reuss has confirmed General Motors is looking to develop a third Chevrolet plug-in vehicle alongside the Volt range-extended electric car and all-electric Spark EV minicar.
As Automotive News (subscription required) details, Reuss made the confirmation recently at an investor presentation last week, although the exact details of the vehicle and production schedule aren’t known publicly.
That’s hardly a lot to go on, but if we examine General Motor’s current electric car position and some of the things GM executives have said in the past, we’re starting to build a pretty convincing picture of a 200-mile, subcompact electric car coming out of GM’s Detroit factories some time in the near future.
Currently, the Chevrolet Volt is one of the most popular plug-in cars on the market in the U.S today, amounting sales totals to date since launch in December 2010 of just over 69,000 units.With a 17.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack a 111 kilowatt electric motor, the Volt is capable of travelling an EPA-rated 38 miles before its battery pack is depleted, whereupon its 1.4-litre four-cylinder range-extending engine operates in tandem with a smaller 55 kilowatt electric motor to generate enough electricity to continue driving a total of 380 miles on a full tank of gasoline before a refill is required.
Both the Volt and its sibling the up-market Cadillac ELR Coupe — which happens to share the Volt’s drivetrain and chassis — will get a refresh for he 2016 model year. Details about the specific changes to the Volt and Cadillac ELR are sparse, with some rumors citing a larger battery pack and longer electric-only mode and other contradicting with talk of a smaller electric range and more efficient three-cylinder gasoline engine. With the 2016 Volt due to be unveiled in January at the Detroit Auto Show and the 2016 ELR due to be unveiled later this year at the LA Auto Show, we can expect more information about each vehicle in the coming weeks.
Alongside the Volt and ELR — not forgetting the Volt-derived European-market Ampera which will cease production later this year — General Motors other plug-in car is the diminutive Spark EV minicar. Built primarily as a compliance car to satisfy zero emission mandates in California and Oregon, the Spark EV offers an EPA-approved 82 miles of range per charge.
Two separate insiders close to GM’s future plans have told Automotive News that the car Reuss confirmed to investors is an all-electric vehicle based on the current Sonic subcompact. Available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, the Sonic is already one of General Motors’ most fuel-efficient gasoline cars and is also extremely popular with younger car buyers who are looking for a fuel-efficient, practical and fun car.
Building a 200-mile electric car from the Sonic platform seems to fit, especially when you consider that both the Sonic and the Spark are built on the same GM Gamma II platform. What’s more, this particular model ties in nicely with previous rumors we’ve heard that suggested General Motors’ future production plans included space for a 200-mile electric subcompact that would compete directly with a longer-range Nissan LEAF and Tesla Motors’ 2017 Model ≡.
Add this to previous promises from last year when former GM CEO Dan Akerson said GM was working on an electric car with 200 miles of range and a $30,000 target price — not to mention the news from GM’s battery supplier LG Chem that a 200-mile lithium-ion battery pack would enter production for one of its customers this year — and we think there’s enough compelling evidence to suggest that a 200-mile electric car from General Motors is now a foregone conclusion.
The sad bit? According to Automotive News’ sources, the rumored Sonic-sized electric subcompact wouldn’t enter production until 2017, exactly the same time as Tesla’s Model ≡ is promised to hit the market.
Unless Nissan can come out with an affordable longer-range electric car in the interim then, we’re thinking 100-mile mid-priced electric cars will be the market norm for just a little while longer.
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