GM's first full electric vehicle since the EV1 (of Who Killed the Electric Car fame), the Chevy Spark EV takes a different approach than before. Practicality is now among the chief concerns for carmakers diving into the EV game.
Making its debut in front of the cameras at the LA show, Spark EV is an all-electric version of the gas-powered microcar that recently began selling in the U.S. Powered by a 20 kWh, A123-supplied, nanophosphate ithium-ion battery, Spark EV is estimated to be at the top of its segment for electric range. (GM isn't providing an official estimated range, but the Indian version of the Spark, the Chevy Beat EV, has a range of 80 miles.)
Output of the electric motor is 130 horsepower and a whopping 400 pound-feet of torque, which should be more than enough to get this little guy around the city. When the battery is low, there are many options to recharge. A standard 120-volt charger is of course available, but owners will want to take advantage of the 7-hour charge time from a 240-volt charger, or even better, the 80% recharge in 20 minutes with an optional connector.
The Spark's interior is tech-filled as well. A new LCD gauge cluster, reminiscent of Chevy's Volt, uses bright animations to display battery charge information. And like the Volt, there is an emphasis on connecting to the driver's smartphone.
The Spark EV infotainment philosophy is "smart phone, dumb screen," meaning that smartphone functionality will be available to the driver in "eyes-free" mode. Spark EV will be the first car to integrate Siri into the system through a button on the steering wheel, but many controls will still be unavailable at launch, such as navigation control.
BMW i3 Coupe
While we first encountered BMW's i3 electric at last year's LA show, the big news is how the updated Coupe concept shows closer-to-production looks. Gone are the full-glass doors. Instead more realistic features have appeared. The EV, planned for 2013, has still retained many of the initial design features like the exposed kidney grille, similar to the new 3-Series. The interior still has a very open and expansive feel. BMW is doing a lot with the little car.
The "i" sub-brand is a big deal for BMW, as it is an entirely new direction for the luxury-performance German automaker. Instead of focusing solely on the 'Ultimate Drive Machine,' BMW is now setting its sights on the ultimate efficiency machine, with electrics and plug-in gas hybrids. The new i3 will be outrageously efficient, with an all carbon fiber mono cell, the car will benefit from an extremely low weight.
But, we're assured the i-vehicles will still drive like BMWs. A 170 hp electric motor tied to a lithium-ion battery powers the rear wheels, in true Bimmer fashion. But customers will likely go easy on the throttle, in hopes of hitting an estimated 100 mile range.
Interestingly, the i3 will be able to be driven mostly with one pedal. BMW's research with the Mini E shows that EV drivers tend to rely on the single pedal in city traffic, when simply removing their foot from the accelerator results in immediate regenerative braking to slow down the car.
Inside, you'll see that BMW is moving their dash design in a new direction as well. Instead of a massive gauge cluster, a little tablet-like screens pop out of the dash to offer a ton of driving information, without taking up much space. In the photo above, you'll see that BMW's iDrive system has been updated on this concept. If anything, it is telling of what BMW will show when the car comes to the market at the end of 2013. Pricing is estimated to fall in line with the 3-Series ($40,000-50,000).