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Chevrolet Plans an All-Electric Version of the Spark

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author photo by Nick Chambers October 2011

Ahead of its official launch at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Chevrolet has unveiled plans to bring the Spark mini-car to the United States in 2012. Sold as a 2013 model, the Spark will not only be the company's first North American product in this more-than-diminutive size class, it will also be its first foray into the world of all-electric cars.

While GM has spent the vast majority of its efforts over the last three years on developing and marketing the Chevy Volt, it has always left the door open for an all-electric car without the Volt's range-extending gas engine.

Yet, because of its concentration on the Volt, GM has given mixed signals about pure electric cars-walking a fine line between marketing the plug-in hybrid Volt as a better solution than Nissan's all-electric Leaf and not shooting itself in the foot in preparation for eventually selling its own all-electric car.

During the increasingly intense marketing war between the two companies, Chevy danced around criticism of any potential future products by saying that the all-electric drivetrain was better suited to short range city driving-implying that the Leaf didn't make sense as a mid-size family car. So it comes as no surprise that GM's first all-electric car will be its tiniest.

When it goes on sale in 2012, the Spark will come in both gas-powered and all-electric versions and is targeted squarely at "young, urban dwellers," said Chris Perry, Chevrolet's Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy.

The Spark is a four-door, four passenger hatchback about 13 inches shorter than the recently released 2012 Chevy Sonic subcompact, but in terms of mini-cars it's still a bit of a giant; the stylish Fiat 500 is three inches shorter and the easily recognizable Smart ForTwo is a whopping three feet shorter.

As for the all-electric version, GM wasn't yet ready to say what the expected driving range will be on a full charge, but is hinting that it won't be as much as the Nissan Leaf's 100 miles.

"The Spark EV offers customers living in urban areas who have predictable driving patterns or short commutes an all-electric option," said Jim Federico, Chevrolet's Chief Engineer for Global Electric Vehicles. "It complements Chevrolet's growing range of electrified vehicles, including the Volt extended-range EV and the 2013 Malibu Eco with eAssist technology."

Even though the expected range is less than that of the Leaf, GM's Manager of Global Product and Brand Communications, Rob Peterson, told AutoTrader.com that it may be a small car, but "it's still a fully functional EV capable of exceeding the freeway speed limits."

While the gas-powered Spark will be available throughout North America, the Spark EV will initially be restricted to California and will likely sell in extremely low volumes. Peterson went on to say that selling in other areas will depend on the development of appropriate charging infrastructure.

More information on the Spark and Spark EV will be released at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

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Chevrolet Plans an All-Electric Version of the Spark - Autotrader