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Chevy Spark EV to be a fast driving and fast charging electric car

The 2014 Chevy Spark EV, to be unveiled at the LA Auto Show, is shaping up to be a very fast electric car, that will be the first to support the SAE DC Fast Charging system, which will give it a 20 minute recharge time.

The Chevy Spark EV is slated to be very fast on the road, and very fast at the charging station. Ahead of the LA Auto Show, GM is announcing details about the Spark EV, with today's announcement showing the Spark EV to have high performance, and to be the worlds first electric car to support the new SAE DC Fast Charging standard giving it a 20 minute recharge time.

For a year we've known that GM would bring the Spark to the U.S. with an all electric version, the Spark EV, for the 2014 model year. It is due to begin sales in the summer of 2013, and is expected to be in limited production for sale only in California. The Spark is a popular compact car manufactured by GM Korea, and is sold in many countries around the world, and a gasoline version of the Spark is already being sold in the U.S.

The Spark EV sports a 20 kilowatt-hour battery pack made by A123 Systems for this car. GM has not specified the driving range, but we expect it will be in the neighborhood of 70 miles. The oil-cooled, permanent magnet motor produces at least 100 kilowatts (130 hp) and instantaneous torque of about 400 lb.-ft., resulting in 0-60 mph acceleration in less than eight seconds. Top speed of the gasoline Spark is over 100 miles/hr, but GM may have limited the top speed of the Spark EV. “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,” Spark EV Chief Engineer Chuck Russell said. “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.”

It is the charging system which makes this a most interesting electric car. While the battery pack is relatively small, and we expect the driving range to be relatively short, fast charging support can make up for that in a big way. If, that is, the charging station network operators follow suit and deploy compatible fast charging stations. Even a short range electric car can drive long distances if the battery pack can be quickly recharged.

Via the level 2 J1772 charging port, the time for a full recharge is less than seven hours, indicating that the on-board charger supports only a 3.3 kilowatt charge rate. GM claims the Spark EV will be the first electric car to support the SAE DC Fast Charging system, and that this will support recharging up to 80 percent of battery capacity in approximately 20 minutes. GM also explicitly promises that the Spark EV will support multiple fast charges per day.

“Spark EV’s battery has undergone more than 200,000 hours of testing in our global battery systems labs,” said Larry Nitz, executive director of GM’s global electrification engineering team. “This testing paved the way to allow our customers to do multiple DC Fast Charges daily to help alleviate range anxiety and improve convenience.”

This is a significant claim because there is another electric car, the Nissan Leaf, where Leaf owners are observing fast range degradation and Nissan's representatives have backed off from claims that the Leaf can be fast charged multiple times a day.

GM's battery partner for the Spark EV, A123 Systems, is going through a rough patch. In October A123 filed for bankruptcy while announcing an agreement for Johnson Controls to buy most of the assets. This move followed a year full of problems with battery packs and battery pack recalls. Since the bankruptcy, several companies have been fighting for ownership of the A123 Systems technology. Currently A123 Systems is receiving debtor-in-possession financing from Wanxiang and is able to keep its factories running while going through bankruptcy.

A123's battery technology is widely known to support very high discharge and recharge rates.

“Spark EV is the latest demonstration of our growing expertise in electric motor and battery technologies – expertise we will need as we grow our portfolio of electric vehicles to address the needs of our global customers,” Nitz said.