By on July 24, 2014

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The upcoming pure electric vehicle being discussed in the wake of the Opel Ampera’s demise will also be sold in the United States, in the form of a Chevrolet Sonic.

The Sonic-based EV will reportedly have a 200 mile range, which will presumably come from the new battery that LG Chem (battery supplier for the Volt) is working on right now. That will arrive in 2016, which suggests that the Sonic EV won’t be introduced until at least that date.

The Sonic EV will also be built in Michigan, which will allow GM to gain regulatory credits for selling a pure EV that is also made in America. The Chevrolet Spark EV, which is built in Korea, is not eligible, and has a range of just 82 miles.

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58 Comments on “Exclusive: General Motors Working On Sonic EV With 200-Mile Range...”


  • avatar
    Toad

    Vaporware. LG chem is “working on” the new battery. I’m “working on” turning lead into gold.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Here’s my issue with the EV on such a small cheap car:

    Early adopters of technologies like this are usually well-heeled and interested in new tech and the environment. The average buyer of the Spark/Sonic is into having four wheels which will get them to and from their hourly pay job, while fitting their children in the back. Very likely, it’s the first new car they’ve had, or have had to get after their Galant/Sebring/LHS bit the dirt. They don’t want an EV because it might not be charged up, and hey their manager is already looking for a reason to cut their hours.

    The EV idea is better put to a small/mid standard or above vehicle, like the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      Guess
      Sonic is cheaper than the volt, so the price will be less, so there is a slight chance they’ll get more sales.

      They aren’t really looking for sales here, they are looking to make uncle sam happy, which isn’t exactly working with the Spark EV because it is built in Korea.

      This could be an excellent commuter vehicle for many people if it really does do 200 miles (150 will work too). The Sonic is a pretty nice highway cruiser.

    • 0 avatar
      fozone

      @CoreyDL

      I disagree — In my part of the country (the PNW), the cheap-and-frog-like LEAF is selling (or should I say leasing) well; it is $99 a month, requires no gas, and requires far less maintenance than any ICE car.

      Yes, you have to remember to plug it in. But in that respect, it is like a cell phone. I don’t see too many people flubbing that.

      If they can eke out a 200 mile range and keep the price in the range of the LEAF they are going to have a major hit. I would probably get one as a commuter — it makes financial sense.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        +1

        Leaf everywhere around here – as is the Model S.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Of course the Leaf is leasing well; at $99 per month Nissan is essentially giving you a free car! I’m sure if I opened a bar that gave out free beer it would be very popular, but the economics are not self sustaining. For $99 per month with a closed end lease I’d consider commuting with almost anything except a lawn mower.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          This would be cheaper than the fuel required for my car indeed.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Serious question – Who is leasing the Leaf for $99 a month and where, and if they really are, is that the actual cost (i.e. No money cap cost reduction)?

          For a lot of people, a Leaf can be enough even with a very short range (that’s climate/temperature sensitive) for their daily driver duties, and $99/month is less than 1/2 of their monthly gasoline bill.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            In early 2013 there was a local dealer that was advertising left over 2012 Leafs for $99 a month with $2500 down with 12K per year on a 24 month lease. I would have went down and leased one the next day at that price. However I had an 8am flight the next day and of course the 3 they had were gone by the time I returned. The math I did with using all of the available miles would have meant that I saved that $4900 on fuel over that period so it would be like getting a free car. However that was for 3 left over cars and not an everyday widely available price.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            @Scoutdude – that was a decent price, but let’s do the math:

            $99/mo x 24 months = $2400
            down payment = $2500
            total for 24 months: $4900

            last I checked, Nissan has a $600 disposition fee on the Leaf lease, so new total is now $5500

            $5500 / 24 months = $229/mo

            And my guess is that is for the base S model, with no high speed charger, and assuming that the advertised deal didn’t leave out any surprise costs. I suppose that depends on your state’s laws regarding lease advertisements. In Florida all upfront costs have to be specified, but $2500 capitol cost reduction doesn’t mean there isn’t a security deposit, first month’s payment, doc fees, whatever, added to that. The last time I checked, the $2500 down turned into $3500 once all the required costs were included and still didn’t include the disposition fee.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Oh boy here we go again with the mythical $99/mo Leaf. Unless someone can prove me wrong, I have researched this to death, because if I can lease a Leaf for $99/mo I want one. But it is only $99/mo after a fairly high up front cost. When you compare the true out of pocket costs, its more like $250/mo. And that isn’t even for the model with the high speed charging, IIRC that will add another $20 or so to the payment, at which point you may as well get the top line SL model which ended up around $280/mo or so.

      Calculated out for 1000 miles a month that is included with the lease, and this payment is more than double what someone would pay for gas for an average economy car. Is it a good deal? Yes. Is it like getting a free car? Not even close. But I would still get one if I could live with the range, but I cannot. I need 150 miles per day capability to work for me.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Correct. The small print in the local dealer ads for the $99 Leaf need close to $5K down.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I’m paying $340/month for my ’12 Leaf SL, FWIW.

        Nissan has since lowered the price – a lot – and I received my trade-in money in the form of a check rather than deduct it from my payment.

        The $99 Leaf is somewhat mythical.

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          Don’t get me wrong, $230, $280, even $340 is not a BAD price. My Civic lease is $230/mo and I still put about $80 in gas in it every month, so a Leaf would be a better deal. But the Civic can go more than 80 miles at a time, which is really what I needed. If I didn’t live so far out in the boonies I would have a Leaf instead for sure.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    and i saw a unicorn last night!

  • avatar
    miketm

    Yes, I call BS as well. There’s a reason evs either have modest range or cost as much as a small house. GM is not going to magically double battery capacity at the same cost overnight.

    Maybe they can do this if they want to make a $60K Sonic, or if they want to lose their shirts on each one they sell. (actually, I could see GM taking both of those routes…)

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      “GM is not going to magically double battery capacity at the same cost overnight.”

      GM isn’t going to double battery capacity… LG is actually doing the heavy lifting.

      And then LG will sell the batteries to GM… and anybody else that wants them.

      With the Volt, GM spent a lot of money to [try to] get way out in front on a market for which they don’t control the enabling technology. Not a great plan, IMO. The 200 mile Sonic BEV is basically the same business plan.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Maybe they can call it a Cadillac and charge $80K? That can’t fail, can it?

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    So a 60kWh usable battery? It’d be nice to see, as would a 30kWh usable Volt battery, but I shan’t hold my breath.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      The current Volt battery has enough capacity for me and probably for most other people. I’m not buying a Volt, though, because it has too few seats, too little cargo room, CS mode fuel economy that’s too low and a price that’s too high. I think those are the real barriers and GM would be better off addressing those problems than adding more EV range.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Well… You SAY that, but as anyone with an EV could tell you, you can NEVER have too much battery.

        It’s like buying a HDTV: if you bring home the 60″, in a few weeks or months you’ll want the 70″.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Must just be me, then. We bought a 32″ TV 3 or 4 years ago and we’re perfectly happy with it still.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Doctor,

          Seriously, with a PHEV, like the Volt, as soon as you have enough EV range to cover the daily commute, what’s the added practical benefit to offset the added cost and packaging issues of larger batteries to support the range? For anything over your workday use, you’re as likely to need better CS mode fuel economy as anything else.

          It seems to me, too, that the Volt, when it sells at all, sells to EV zealots. These people aren’t going to take EV sales to the next level; future Volts have to address the shortcomings that regular owners will see.

          If Toyota (or GM) could fit a 12-20 mile battery into the space currently occupied by the standard traction battery in my Prius, leaving me my current cargo and passenger room and “CS mode” fuel economy, that would be ideal for my purposes and anything larger would be pointless.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Next great leap in battery tech is already here, the one that makes battery electric viable. I doubt this car is using it…

    Google Japanese rydan battery.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Another revolutionary battery? Yawn. Wake me up when somebody puts it into a smart phone.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        Its going into a formula e car this upcoming racing season. I’d say that’s a bit better than a phone, no?

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Actually, no. Cost is not the same kind of constraint in a formula race car as it would be in a consumer smart phone.

          However, if it really gets into a formula race car (got a link?), then I’d consider the technology to be “real,” although it might still be unattractive for a consumer BEV for a variety of reasons.

          • 0 avatar
            nickoo

            Its obvious you didn’t google it. Production Costs are similar to lithium ion.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            I did. See my earlier post. Wake me up when I can buy it somewhere.

            If it works at all, I expect to see it in a $millions race car or smartphone first for a variety of reasons. Smartphone makers are highly incentivized to pay for high-capacity batteries and are going to be more tolerant of higher cost and even a fairly short life than automakers. They’re only putting a few amp-hours into each phone, so the cost isn’t all that great no matter what and they’re looking to keep the phone alive, if possible, for hours while running the cell radio, wifi radio, bluetooth radio, GPS unit, CPU and display. Getting 2X the life of another vendor’s unit is a big win. Or, looked at another way, having a big battery can allow you to run a faster processor with better graphics for the same duration as the competitor’s lower-speed units. Also a win. If the battery costs extra to accomplish that, it’s the price of getting the win. They won’t spend unlimited amounts on the battery but they will spend something. If the battery turns out to have a fairly short life, the smartphone maker won’t care too much because people turn over their phones every couple of years, anyway.

            An automaker, on the other hand, needs a battery technology with a proven long life and reasonable cost because each car is going to need a *lot* of batteries and the 8+ year warranty makes new battery tech a risky proposition.

  • avatar

    INCREDIBLE

    A compact with range anxiety!!!

    so much better than a plug-in version of the Malibu!!!

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    I would like to buy this as a commuter car, depending on how much range it has in the winter. I think freezing to death because I got stuck would kind of suck.

    I’m old enough to remember the Vega, Oldsmobile Diesel, Cadillac 4-6-8, the 2.8 liter V6 head gaskets, Quad 4 and the “cold starting kit” my 84 Caviler required for their first try at fuel injection. I don’t know that I want to beta test for GM anymore so never mind.

    I want GM to succeed, I really do. I just can’t trust them not to screw me. I certainly have tried to dissuade my children from buying a GM product. They have broken my heart so many times (GM not my kids.)

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Great commentary from the B&B.

    Same folks that said the Encore would never sell, the Cruze is over priced, and the FR-S will save Scion.

    It’s my understanding that LG has already increased the density in their cells – of course coming from a product background how much of that is alive and for real and how much of that is, “well, we can tell the world about this now because it should be ready by…”

    Given that 2016 is all of 18 months away, it’s not a very long lead time from we can do it and reality.

    I’ll also eat crow and say that Tesla would never fly – as did many here.

    • 0 avatar
      fozone

      I think many of the commenters here haven’t internalized the fact that most people really don’t give a toss about driving. (The number of Corollas on the road should be a clue.)

      People drive because they have to.

      For most people, buying a car is an expensive nightmare (even if you can avoid Herb Tarlek in sales or F&I by doing it online).

      Maintenance is an expensive headache.

      And $4+ gallon for gas is an obscene expense when you’re on a budget.

      The average commute distance in the US is about 18 miles. In markets like mine, closer to 10 miles.

      Do the math. The moment a car like the LEAF — but upgraded to a 150+ mile range to squash anxiety — hits the market at a reasonable price, you are going to see mass adoption across the country.

      And in many temperate parts of the country, you are already seeing it happen. As goes California….

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        150mi for a pure EV is still not suitable for an all-purpose car, but rather for an urban/suburban second vehicle. I think 200mi with 125kW charging or better is the minimum for an EV as only-car in much if not most of the US, and it looks like only Tesla will have both halves of that equation for the foreseeable future. 250kW charging would be a whole lot better: 200mi of range in ~15-20m of charging. However, a current-tech battery that could charge at ~2C reliably and repeatedly would be 125kWh, or about 400mi range, at a minimum.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        @fozone
        Completely agree with your comment and your first sentence is golden.

        My only caveat with EVs isn’t range anxiety but preparedness anxiety. Charging time strikes me as a modern equivalent of gravity-draining a water bed in the ’80s only a lot more frequent.

    • 0 avatar
      harshciygar

      The B&B doesn’t seem to be either these days, to be honest. I’ve felt like the commentary has taken a significant nosedive, but hey, maybe I’m just getting old.

      As far as a 200-mile Sonic EV, it makes plenty of sense to me. Tesla has already proven a 200+ mile EV is possible, and they don’t have anything close to the economies of scale that GM has.

      Panasonic is pretty much minting money thanks to Tesla, and LG Chem is every bit a rival to them in terms of engineering prowess. Most people in the auto industry consider Tesla’s battery technology old hat and overpriced, and I think they have a point; that’s why the Gigafactory is so damn important to Elon’s ambitions.

      If true, and GM can slip the Sonic EV in at a lower cost than the Tesla Model III, and a year earlier…well I won’t make any predictions. But it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I want me a Tesla…but a Sonic EV would look great next to my wife’s 1.4T Sonic (which should be out of warranty by then, which means open season on performance modifications!)

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    PBX #1 my thoughts exactly

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Yay! 200 mile range! My inner science geek is beaming!

    I’ve got the Pro-EV giggles in anticipation of this truly historic event!!

    One concern… how many recalls will this one have?

    Lol!! Thank you, thank you! I’ll be here all week!

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    NYC to Boston is 210 miles or so.
    NYC to DC is 226 miles or so.

    That’s what, 20% or US population?

    If GM are smart, they would aim for 240 mi or so range not some arbitrary number.

    • 0 avatar
      beastpilot

      The USA is 314M, NYC is 8.3M, Boston is 0.6M, DC is 0.6M

      So, 5%, not 20%. Also, only 46% of NYC HOUSEHOLDS own a car. So we’re talking maybe 2.5% of Americans are possible customers for an electric car that live in NYC and consider a Boston/DC commute a requirement.

      I’d love to sell a product that worked for 97.5% of all Americans.

      The last time I drove a car somewhere 200+ miles away was years ago. There are plenty of people a 200 mile range would work great for. Arguing that a car is worthless because it doesn’t work for 10%, 20%, 30%, or even 90% of people is pretty silly. There’s no car on the market that sells 10% of all passenger vehicles. The F-150 sells ~750,000 units a year in a market of 15.6M total cars. Thus, you can become the best selling car in the USA by hitting only 5% of all car buyers. 2% will get you in the top 10.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        600,000 in DC or Boston, you’re kidding right?

        Boston to DC is one occasionally interrupted sprawl of 50 odd million people.

        • 0 avatar
          beastpilot

          Yes, but that means all the people in Philly only have a 50 mile drive to NYC and a 100 mile drive to DC, which this car works fine for. So you can’t count all those people in this theoretical bucket of people that need 240 miles all the time.

          Saying there are 50M people that all need 240 miles of range to drive means you assume 1/2 of the people live at each end, not some even distribution between.

          Also, the OP gave round trip distances between all cities. That 240 mile NYC to Boston trip is 120 miles each way.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            I live North of Boston and about 230 miles away from Manhattan. But, in reality, I’d probably never drive a car the entire distance to NYC, although I have in a couple of situations.

            10 miles from my home is a “Transportation Center” that has overnight parking, buses to the airport, trains to Boston and Maine. Boston trains depart at rush hour as frequently as every 7 – 30 minutes, or hourly off-peak. From Boston, Amtrak departs from NYC on an hourly basis. If you get an Acelea train, it takes about 3.5 hours Boston to NYC.

            By driving on the road 10 miles, I can get to NYC in maybe 4.5 hours, which is probably best case if you were driving a car. On the East coast, we have a pretty good transportation system, and nasty road traffic. So even with a ICE, driving usually isn’t the best option. With Wifi on both Amtrak and the MBTA, the train is a much better option. For me, it’s a 20 mile round trip on the road. No range anxiety at that distance.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Trust me, the trip from DC (well, Northern VA) to Manhanttan is NOT a woefully underrated driving experience that automotive journalists think is a sweet little secret they want to keep to themselves. DCA to LGA, Amtrak, or even a DC to NYC bus is far more enjoyable.

  • avatar
    hazmat

    The smaller size of vehicle (i.e. low mass) may be required to eek out 200 miles in a reasonable (call it city) use cycle. Add in the US made regulatory bene and you get a Sonic.

    Using the hypothesized increase in battery power density to up the EV side of a plug-in hybrid to 80-100 miles might make a more attractive proposition. There you are handing out an EV daily that is still a serviceable travel vehicle in hybrid mode. Naturally, your down side is increased complexity & cost for dual power-plant, so maybe that one shows up in a larger vehicle.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    We’ll see.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Perhaps GM should halt innovating until they’ve taken care of the other innovations that are failing. No more fuel to the big fire.

  • avatar
    natebrau

    Hopefully this won’t get ignored too badly…

    I’m the target market for this car.

    I currently have a ’13 Spark EV, one of the first ones sold here in sunny L.A. I’ve had it for just under a year, love it. Best car I’ve ever owned. I put up a 5.5KW solar panel array on my house. In 2016 my 3-year lease is up, and I’ll be replacing the Spark EV with something… maybe a Sonic EV. Maybe a Tesla Model 3. Maybe the next-gen Leaf. I don’t know yet, but it’ll be another EV. Can’t wait.

  • avatar
    shaker

    “200 Mile” range probably means “150 Mile Real World” range, which would be fantastic, if it’s affordable.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Affordable is the key. If they can deliver that kind of range at a Leafish price, it could do well. Otherwise, they’re selling an expensive EV that looks like a typical Sonic. The Leaf and Prius are icons, they make a statement, and people will pay a premium for that. An electric Sonic is still a Sonic.


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