GM starts production of Spark EV electric motors in Baltimore

2014 spark ev

General Motors (GM) unveiled the start of production for electric motors that will be equipped on the 2014 Chevy Spark EV at the automakers' Baltimore facility in White Marsh, MD today.  (Ok, that is not technically Baltimore but it is close enough.)  This makes GM the first automaker to assemble and build electric motors in the US.  In addition the plant will also manufacture and assemble transmissions for the Spark EV.

The 2014 Spark EV will represent a big shift for GM.  While many point to the Chevy Volt's success, the company hasn't released a fully electric car that has been available to the public since the EV1.  We all know that the EV1 was a PR nightmare for GM and is it important to note that the EV1 was not available for the general car buying public to buy.  Oh, the times are changing though.

GM seems to be committed to building electric cars like the Spark EV and being environmentally friendly at the same time.  Not only will the GM Baltimore Operations be building electric car motors  and transmissions, but it also has a solar panel array on the Baltimore operations that generate 1.25 megawatts of electricity.  I was told this provides roughly 9% of the energy for the plant, which isn't a lot but that is not bad either.  The Baltimore facility is also 100% landfill free.  Materials are either burned for energy, recycled or reused for other projects.

Larry Nitz, GM's global electrification director, mentioned that the through the whole process of designing the Spark EV that GM was, and is, customer focused.  “Quiet, reliable, fun.” is how he described the Spark EV.

Having driven the Spark EV around the closed Baltimore operations facility, I do agree it is all three of those things.  It is surprisingly smooth and has good pick-up but certainly is not fast.  (Some fit and finish could use a some work though.)  It is hard to tell from a drive that only lasted 5-10 minutes and was not on real roads though.  As well you need to have a GM engineer making sure you aren't doing burnouts or anything.  That is something a particular auto writer might have suggested.

GM has not announced official pricing for the 2014 Spark EV but has said it should be under $25,000.  With a tax credit of $7,500 it should be affordable for the average consumer putting it right in the electric car market with the Nissan Leaf.  While the Spark EV seems like it will be fighter against the Nissan Leaf, Nissan has sold 50,000 Leafs since the car's introduction.  This makes the Nissan Leaf the best selling electric car of all time and most likely will be hard to catch-up with in terms of sales.  (The Prius does not count since it is a hybrid, which has a gas motor, in case you were thought “What about the Prius?.”)

GM has also not confirmed the exact date when the Spark EV will be available for sale.  Larry Nitz did say during lunch that only a select amount of Chevy dealerships will be selling the Spark EV.  This is the similar strategy that GM used for the Chevy Volt launch.  No word on how many GM expects to sell or what the electric motor output for the Baltimore plant is.  (I asked they didn't say or budge a bit.)

Since this was a big announcement for GM and the area as a whole.  Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley was on hand, as well Baltimore county executives, today to show his support for GM and the push to electrify the nations's vehicles.  Governor O'Malley even took a spin around in the Spark EV exclaiming as he got in, “I haven't done this in 13 years!”  I guess that shows how pampered politicians are! 🙂

You can see my video of Governor O'Malley taking the 2014 Spark EV for a spin.  I need to work on my video editing skills a lot though.  (Btw Windows Live Movie Maker sucks!)

One surprising guest I noticed at the event today was Debbie Phelps, Michael Phelps mom. I guess Debbie Phelps is now a celebrity in Baltimore so she gets invited to events like this Spark EV gathering.  My guess is that Michael Phelps, Baltimore's most famous and beloved athlete, could easily buy his mom a 2014 Spark EV (well probably like 20) without affecting his wallet too much.  She didn't drive a Spark EV, she just rode along in one, so I am unsure if she will be buying one in the future.

All in all it will be interesting to see what is next for the Baltimore facility in terms of manufacturing capabilities for electric motors and transmissions and if this will extend to other parts of the US.  As well what is next for GM and their electric car future.

Stay tuned for more articles about the Spark EV and Baltimore GM plant.

Hot New Cars at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show

2014 Corvette
2014 Corvette and the classic Corvette Stingray

January is an exciting time for car enthusiasts with the the famous Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., (Jan. 13-20) and the Detroit Auto Show which takes place from Jan. 14-27 in the Motor City.  The Detroit Auto Show (the official name is North American International Auto Show) features the latest and greatest models from some of the world largest automakers.

This year the Detroit Auto Show is showcasing an impressive array of new models and it's clear the competition from automakers is getting more intense. Ones I am keeping my eyes out for include the new Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra full-size pickup, the restyled 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Cadillac ELR, the BMW 4-series, Infiniti Q50, Toyota Furia and a new Ford F-150 concept.

Also at the top of my “can't wait to check it out” list is the redesigned Lexus IS, the 2014 C7 Corvette and the redesigned Acura MDX. Here's a look at why these vehicles are generating so much buzz in the Motor City.

Redesigned Lexus IS 250

Scheduled for release on Wed., Jan. 16, the redesigned 2014 Lexus IS sport sedan has been fully redesigned. According to Edmunds, its main areas of improvement are a re-tuned suspension, improved seats and additional interior room, and will be available in two F Sport and a hybrid upgrade.

The new IS features LED day running lights under the headlights and the wheelbase has been enlarged, making more room available in the car's interior. According to Autoweek.com, “Powertrain options will be mostly carryover units, probably with a bit more efficiency. We know from our quick drive last month of prototypes that the sedan will use a knob to switch from eco to sport-plus mode, which changes throttle and steering response, as well as transmission shift points.”

Redesigned Acura MDX

The MDX was Acura's first midsize crossover. According to Autoweek.com, it comprises 32 percent of total U.S. Acura sales in 2012. While the original model follows the same midsize platform as the Honda Accord and Odyssey, the industry expects the third generation to be more aerodynamic and have the same 3.5 liter, 280 horsepower engine as the Acura TL.

2014 C7 Corvette

Arguably, the event's most anticipated release the new Corvette. According to Forbes.com, the new model will include five major changes. The first is a V8 engine that “will be powered by the first version of an entirely new generation of V8 engines codenamed LT1.”

The next big change comes from the superior aerodynamics of the front engine and rear-wheel drive. “For example, the front grill and radiator flow paths reduce lift, improving vehicle stability at high speeds by keeping the car pressed to the pavement,” Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer, said in a press release.

The next defining feature of the 2014 model is that it embodies a lighter and stiffer structure. Alex McDonald, a Chevy performance integration engineer, said in a video that the Corvette will have “more high-tech chassis aids than ever before,” adding, “This car is a new level of electronic integration.”

Two other major changes in the 2014 C7 include an improved interior, which is something everyone has complained about with the Corvette, and affordable price for its class.  The 2014 Corvette will also bring back the famous Stingray design and nameplate to the Corvette

A series of teaser videos was produced by Chevy for the 2014 Corvette. Here's the fourth one:

If you are not too far from Detroit and are interested in attending the 2013 Detroit Auto Show you can visit the website for more information: http://www.naias.com/

If you attend the show please leave a comment and let me know what you liked most about the Detroit Auto Show and what cars got you most excited.

*Please follow Adam’s Auto Advice on Facebook and Twitter.

2013 Ford Explorer Sport Interior and Exterior Tour

Here are some quick video tours of the brand new 2013 Ford Explorer Sport.  These Youtube videos should give you a good idea of what the interior and exterior look like without actually having to go test drive a Ford Explorer Sport.  I think the Ford Explorer is a slick looking SUV inside and out, but watch and decide for yourself.  Please also checkout the video interview with Bill Gubing, the Chief Engineer on the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport, I posted since it's pretty fun.

Interview with Bill Gubing, Chief Engineer of the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport

Here is a short video interview that Nicolas Zart did with Bill Gubing, chief engineer on the new 2013 Ford Explorer Sport, during a Ford ride and drive event in Santa Monica.  Bill seems very excited about the new 2013 Ford Explorer Sport and discusses the new handling and upgrade suspension characteristics of the Ford Explorer Sport.  As he says the new Ford Explorer Sport is a true “Driver's Car” and I definitely agree with him.