Chevy's electric Spark EV tested in Yuma heat
Jul 04, 2012 (Menafn - The Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Yuma residents may have spotted a small white car with funky black markings recently.
A team from General Motors has been testing prototypes of Chevy's Spark EV in the area to see how the nanophosphate lithium-ion battery pack and the motor perform in high temperatures. The electric vehicle is expected to hit showrooms in 2013.
"We wanted to make sure that our electric motor is operating optimally," said Kevin Kelly, manager of GM's electric vehicle and hybrid communications.
"We thought as we were getting closer to production, we needed to just make one more check in the hot weather. We are pretty close to the final calibrations on the vehicle but we wanted to see what last-minute things needed to be tweaked to make sure we were on the right path."
On June 23, a team drove prototypes of the Spark EV from Yuma west into California as part of a 305-mile test drive that took the vehicles on both the freeway and country roads.
As the Spark EV has a range of only about 80 miles on a single charge, the team had to make several pit stops to recharge.
"We are trying to determine how the battery would perform and how the electric motor would perform in the heat of Yuma, so we drove from Yuma to Torrance, Calif., where we have a technology facility," Kelly said.
Lithium ion batteries operate at peak efficiency in temperate weather, Kelly explained. When temperatures become either too cold or too hot, the battery doesn't perform as well. Knowing this, GM's engineers designed a heating and cooling system for the Spark EV to keep the battery at an optimal temperature.
"We are just trying to make sure that system is working perfectly before we sell it to our customers," Kelly said.
The Spark EV will have an electric motor that can produce up to 114 horsepower, or 85 kilowatts, according to General Motors. In comparison, the gasoline-powered Chevy Spark on the market in Asia and Europe is equipped with a 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine that produces only about 83 horsepower.
The motor will be built at a plant in Maryland and the batteries in Michigan, but the car itself will be assembled in South Korea.
Those who are curious about the car can follow the testing team's progress on Twitter at #SparkEV.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.
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