General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) is hard at work producing the next generation of electric cars over in South Korea, according to a Reuters report.
Sergio Rocha, GM Korea’s CEO, did not offer any timeframe, but indicated that the new models would be somewhat larger than the Spark small car.
They would, however, use a completely new design. The Spark EV currently uses a design that was based on an extant gas-powered car.
South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd. is expected to continue to be GM’s partner on the project, supplying the new generation of lithium-ion batteries. These will be developed and produced at GM’s plant near Seoul.
"This (next-generation electric) car has a lot of similarities with the products we produce today in Bupyeong," Rocha said in the interview, on the sidelines of the Seoul auto show.
GM Korea manufactures more than 40 percent of all the Chevrolet-branded vehicles. The company has a particular focus on the U.S. small car market.
GM Electric Vehicles
The EV market continues to remain somewhat anemic, as a number of vehicles struggle to find a good position within the American market. In large part, an unimpressive driving range, lacking infrastructure for nationwide on-the-go charging, and relatively high upfront costs all contribute toward keeping the emergent market slow.
But GM is now working on developing two new EVs which will have ranges of 100 and 200 miles, respectively. Meanwhile, GM Korea began production of the current generation of Spark EVs in Korea for U.S. export and intends to begin selling them in S. Korea and Europe later this year.
If the new EVs indeed command ranges of 100 and 200 miles, then that would put them well ahead of nearly every other car barring Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), since most current EVs boast a range of about 80 miles per charge.
But the new models (going into production this month, per Automotive.com) will be powered by a 20 kilowatt-hour battery pack. They will also feature 130 HP motors and a front wheel torque of 400 pound-feet. From 0-60 mph, it should take about 8 seconds. Projected costs are, at this time, slightly below $25,000.
Meanwhile, the Chevrolet Volt will continue to be built within the U.S., although it relies on lithium-ion battery packs manufactured by LG Chem.
In South Korea, most of the Spark EVs are expected to be used by government agencies in government fleets, reports Fox Business. Of course, the government is also keen (as is GM Korea) on attracting civilian customers.
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Spark 2014 Electric Vehicle Features
The Spark 2014 features a bumper-to-bumper warranty, inclusive of tires, for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles—whichever comes first. As well, the powertrain is covered for 5 years or 100,000 miles. Various safety features stand out, like the StabiliTrak™ Electronic Stability Control System, Hill Start Assist, and as many as ten standard airbags. An OnStar Command Center monitors crash data via the OnStar Automatic Crash Response System.
The Spark EV also makes use of regenerative braking in an effort to recover energy that would normally be lost while braking or otherwise slowing down. Liquid thermal conditioning helps keep things stable in extreme weather conditions and thus helps the battery stay in top performance consistently. This makes sense, since GM is backing the battery by an 8 year or 100,000 mile warranty.
The battery management system includes a “digital feedback” platform via a 7” high-resolution, color LCD screen. This provides information on battery health, charge, and distribution of energy throughout the car’s system.
An Efficiency Gauge helps users configure and customize energy distributions and thus helps maximize efficiency. Since driving style and car efficiency are intimately related, this feedback helps drivers figure out more optimal driving patterns.
As far as charging is concerned, the Spark EV can be plugged into a standard 120V outlet or, for a faster charge, a 240V dedicated outlet. The latter can provide a full charge in 7 hours.
GM Korea exports over 80 percent of the vehicles it builds in Korea, and recently stated that the strong won is a source of some concern.
As Fox Business reports:
"The strong won does not help us at all. We do expect support from the government" as the Japanese government is aggressive in keeping the yen weaker, said Mr. Rocha.
Japanese cars, of course, would be cheaper if the Japanese yen is weaker versus the won. It remains to be seen how that plays out.
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