Experimental electric vehicle conversions last year by General Motors in Korea, Germany and as of last week in India, have some wondering when the company will create a pure battery electric to compete against the likes of the Nissan LEAF and pending Ford Focus EV.
On Thursday June 23, GM began displaying and testing an all-electric version of its Chevrolet Beat minicar in New Delhi. The Beat Electric is not proposed for sale anytime soon, but India was chosen as a demanding environment – as well as growing market – to demonstrate the car.
It is powered by a 300-cell, 20-kWh, liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery similar to what is in the Chevrolet Volt, but larger for the smaller, but non-range-extended car.
The Beat Electric is capable of about 130 km (81 miles) of “normal” driving – presumably at mostly lower speeds, maybe with some highway use thrown in. Recharge time with 240-volt power is under eight hours. A single-speed drive unit and an electric motor producing about 45-kW (60 horsepower) turn the front wheels.
No top speed or other tech specs were listed for the latest EV being shown by its North American-based maker in several markets other than its home market.
The Beat Electric now joins other global market cars being tested as all-electric vehicles by GM demonstration projects in Korea and Germany.
In Korea, GM announced in October 2010 it had converted three Chevrolet Cruzes and seven GM Daewoo Lacetti Premieres to all-electric spec.
The 10 Cruze/Lacetti EVs are equipped with a 31-kWh battery and generate maximum power of 150 kW (201 horsepower). They have been monitored closely to determine the amount of real-world range achievable by vehicles of their size.
On test schedules conducted by LG Chem, they may achieve a range of up to 160 km (100 miles). The vehicles can go from 0 to 100 kph (60 mph) in 8.2 seconds with a maximum speed of 165 kph (102.5 miles per hour).
Shortly before, another GM electric vehicle conversion project had begun in Germany. The electric GM/Opel Meriva, announced September 2010 has a 60-kW (82-horsepower) electric motor with torque output of 215 Nm (159 foot-pounds). Its 16 kWh battery delivers range of 64 km (40 miles), and top speed of 130 kph (81 mph).
GM said Opel’s engineers were able to integrate the otherwise bulky electric drive line without making concessions to luggage capacity or comfort.
As for the GM news of the week in India, the Beat Electric is presumably made with some trickle-down technology from the Volt, most notably the battery.
When the pending Beat Electric was last reported on, the story was it would be shown in April, but plans were stalled.
Initially, GM and REVA had intended to bring a same platform e-Spark EV to market, but those ties were severed, and GM took extra time to build the already planned for Beat EV instead – as a show car for now.
Not much is known about the canceled e-Spark, but REVA, maker of G-Wiz minicars in London, also developed the powertrain for the e-Spark. It was almost surely less high-tech than what is now in the Beat Electric prototype, which if it were offered, could be more expensive – which as you can see is a relative term.
While a price that looks shockingly low by North American standards of around $7,771 had been estimated for the GM/REVA e-Spark, Indian Autos Blog observed even if a presumably somewhat higher priced Beat Electric were offered to the public, it would be a tough sell, as its “L-Ion batteries are way too expensive for the cost-conscious Indian buyer who experiences frequent power cuts at home and work.”
Instead, a Beat diesel is expected to be the new workhorse of the line due later in July.
As it is, the Beat EV could lead to a viable city car in other markets, and surely there would be buyers for a version of it in the U.S. as well as other countries.
Naturally, far more stringent safety regulations and other hurdles could easily make it much more costly in Europe or the U.S. if it were ever to be introduced.
Unfortunately, GM Spokesman Kevin Kelly was not at liberty to divulge any advanced-tech plans, but he did say GM is looking at all kinds of options, including EVs.
He also said GM is figuring how to best tailor a car for the U.S., but there is “no firm timing” for when GM’s home market will see even an experimental EV like they already have had in Germany, Korea, and now India.