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Holden mulls Barina Spark EV

Production confirmed for all-electric Chevy Spark that could slot under Volt in Oz

Holden logo14 Oct 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

AN all-electric version of Holden’s smallest car could join the plug-in Volt range-extender in the brand’s electrified car line-up as part of its limited global rollout in select US and global markets from 2013.

Holden senior product communications manager Kate Lonsdale told GoAuto the company is open to considering the addition of a battery-powered version of its aptly-named Barina Spark light car following the car’s announcement by General Motors in the US this week.

Ms Lonsdale said the Spark EV was “something we would review” for import, but for now the company is focussing on next year’s Australian launch of the Volt.

GM provided no technical details for the Spark EV – other than a cutaway image showing a front-mounted drivetrain supplied by a rear-mounted battery pack.

The company says feedback from demonstration fleets in which EV-converted Chevrolet vehicles in China (Sail), South Korea (Cruze) and India (Beat) will be “incorporated into the Spark EV”.

Given the Spark is rebadged Beat for the Indian market, the Beat EV trialled on the sub-continent – which uses a 45kW electric motor linked to a 20kWh lithium-ion battery and provides a claimed 130km range on an eight-hour charge from a standard 240-volt outlet – is the one most likely to closely reflect the production Spark.

Massachusetts-based energy storage specialist A123 systems – which also supplies battery technology to luxury EV brand Fisker – will provide the Spark EV’s nanophosphate lithium-ion battery packs.

13 center imageFrom top: Indian Chevrolet Beat EV, Chinese Chevrolet Sail EV, South Korean Chevrolet Cruze EV.

In addition to locations around the US, A123 also has bases in Germany, South Korea and China.

A production location for the baby EV has not been announced, but the Spark’s ‘homeroom’ in the global GM empire is South Korea.

Although GM has not committed to putting an electric version of its popular Cruze small car into production, if the trial in South Korea does lead to a production version, the project could potentially pave the way for Holden to produce electric cars in Australia.

Holden is no stranger to EVs, having designed the futuristic, two-wheeled EN-V Xiao electric commuter concept designed to cruise without driver input through city traffic snarls in China.

Chevrolet’s global vehicle chief engineer for electric vehicles, Jim Federico, said the international EV trials “provide insight into the needs of electric vehicle customers living in urban environments”.

He described the Spark EV as “another step in Chevrolet’s plan to provide customers with a variety of electrification solutions to address the lifestyle and transportation needs of people around the world”.

For many customers, pure EVs like the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf and Barina Spark EV are only a realistic proposition as a second car. Ms Lonsdale said one of the Volt’s advantages is “it’s not a mini-car, it’s a family car”.

The 4498mm-long Volt is slightly shorter than the Holden Cruze with which it shares its Delta underpinnings, and is around 900mm longer than the diminutive Barina Spark.

Whereas the Volt occupies a similar size category to the 4450mm-long Leaf, the Barina Spark EV would compete closely with the tiny (3395mm long) but surprisingly spacious i-MiEV.

The Volt’s electric drivetrain, backed up by a petrol generator that kicks in to extend the 80km battery range to 610km, makes the larger, heavier car a more realistic proposition for drivers who commute during the week and do the odd longer trip at weekends.

Mr Federico said the Spark EV “offers customers living in urban areas who have predictable driving patterns or short commutes an all-electric option”.

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