Clean Transport

Published on July 25th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro


LG Chem Developing 200-Mile Battery For Sonic EV?

July 25th, 2014 by  


Originally posted on GAS2

While EV enthusiasts excitedly await the reveal of the Tesla Model III in 2016, by then there will be another contender for consumers’ attention. The Truth About Cars reports that a Chevy Sonic EV with a 200-mile range could debut alongside the 2016 Chevy Volt in the not-too-distant future.

With a new battery pack built in partnership with LG Chem, it seems like GM plans to usurp Tesla’s plans to deliver a long-range and affordably priced EV to the masses. The rumors of a 200-mile GM-branded EV have been around for awhile, with the 82-mile Chevy Spark EV serving as a placeholder for the time being.

With the Tesla Model III aiming for a $35,000 price point, GM will need to come in at or below that price point for the Chevy Sonic EV to have a shot. As the happy owner of a 2012 Chevy Sonic that averages about 300-miles of driving per tank of gas, 200-miles would fulfill 95% of my driving needs. Upgrading from the Smart-sized Spark to the slightly-larder Sonic should give it a wider appeal as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still hot for the Tesla Model III, a car I haven’t even seen yet…but a Chevy Sonic EV would give me something else to seriously consider, especially if it comes to market a whole year sooner than the affordable Tesla. It will also be “Made in America”, giving GM regulatory credits towards meeting CAFE regulations (which the Spark EV doesn’t offer since its made in Korea).

Could GM still Elon Musk’s thunder? Wouldn’t that be something.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • bucricket

    please….no more Sonics. Ugliest car in the GM fleet!

  • Bob_Wallace

    I’d like to go off topic a bit…

    I’m trying to figure out why the Toshiba SCiB battery used in the Honda Fit isn’t getting more love. Let me copy over some stuff from Toshiba’s site…

    The SCiB cells use lithium titanate oxide in the battery anode, enabling rapid charge times and a long battery life, with stable power discharge in a wide range of environments. In extremely cold conditions as low as -30°C the SCiB is less likely to experience lithium metal deposition, which enhances the risk of internal short circuiting and battery degradation, and at high temperature, even above 40°C, the impact on battery degradation is lower than in conventional lithium-ion batteries, according to Toshiba.

    The characteristics of the SCiB battery cell enable longer range for electric vehicles; the SCiB is able to use a wider state of charge window than a conventional lithium-ion battery, and the SCiB also achieves efficient regenerative charging (using kinetic energy from braking and slowing down to charge the battery) that adds to performance.

    The SCiB charges in about half the time of a typical Li-ion battery, Toshiba says. An SCiB 20Ah cell charged with an 80Ah current will reach 80% of capacity in 15 minutes and 95% in an additional 3 minutes. The SCiB generates little heat even during this fast recharging, eliminating the need for power to cool the battery module. Moreover, the full charge-discharge cycle for SCiB is 4,000 times, more than 2.5 times that of other Li-ion batteries. This long life could also contribute to the reuse of the battery.

    That’s some fast charging. And 4k cycles in a 100 mile range EV would be a 400,000 mile battery. In a 200 mile range EV it could be passed from car to car for the better part of a million miles.

    Capacity, I can’t find. I do find 27.5 volts, 40 Ah, 14 kg.

    That’s 1,100 watt hours. 78.6 per kg. Tesla batteries apparently 117 Wh/kg.

    Is weight the deal killer? (Did I make a math/conceptual error?)

    • Steve Grinwis

      I can find hints that the battery in the Smart ForTwo ED has a cycle life of 4500 cycles, even in high temperatures, and to a high depth of discharge.

      Mercedes is hiding this information now for some unknown reason, but you can find claims like this from the company they bought to do their battery manufacaturing Li-Tec.

      If those claims are true, then it would appear that a cycle life of 4000+ cycles is perhaps not as awesome as we think it is, but perhaps more run of the mill. We’ve certainly seen Tesla’s with 700 – 800 charges with no significant degradation.

      As for charging… Charging is limited in almost every application I see, not by how fast the chemistry takes charge, but by how big the charger is.

      Consider a modest Tesla Model S60. On the biggest superchargers that exist on the planet currently (120 kW), it can be charged at a 2C rate, which it can maintain right up until the 80% threshold, then it starts slowing down a bit, sure, but the whole point is that the battery is big enough that you don’t need to charge to 100%.

      I think a lot of modern chemistries are capable of that kind of charge rate, and most of us EV drivers can only *DREAM* about having access to chargers that size. Right now, my only charger is 1.5 kW. o.O

      SO, if the cycle life isn’t as awesome as it sounds, and the charge rate isn’t much us in the real world, and it’s heavy…, perhaps it’s not all that awesome?

      Only thing I can think of. I do think the current gen of battery pack is going to last a lot longer than people expect them too. Full battery pack thermal and charge managment system, and big boy charging electronics are going to extend the life of these super advanced chemistry batteries. I don’t think 400k miles is out of the question at all.

  • Tom G.

    I can’t speak for the rest of the guys posting here but if a vehicle doesn’t catch my eye first then I most likely won’t even go look at it.

    When I look at a Tesla I see something sleek and modern – it catches my eyes. When I look at the Sonic I see something with round headlights, a flat nose with a more or less boxy appearance. Not something I find all that appealing or eye catching at least to me. When I look at the Tesla I see something that looks like it will accelerate as quickly as I want and go as fast as I want which may or may not be true. When I look at the Sonic it reminds me of an econobox vehicle even though it might accelerate quickly and go fast.

    The moral of my little story is this. If both vehicles were priced about the same, had about the same type of powertrain and both rated to carry or transport the same number of people then most likely I wouldn’t even go look at the Sonic. And that my dear friends is a problem for our existing vehicle manufacturers from my perspective.

    Since the 1950’s I have been looking at futuristic vehicles wondering when someone will finally start making one. Tesla seems to be on the right track although the Corvette is certainly a contender but in an entirely different class of vehicle. We seem to have been stuck on square steel boxes with different grills, truck lids and tail lights for about the last 50 years. Tesla at least is offering us something fresh and appealing; it grabs our attention and that is important in the car business. But as the old saying goes, everyone has an opinion just like everyone has …

    Have a great day everyone.

  • MarTams

    I don’t know which one is more appropriate:
    Could GM still Elon Musk’s thunder? (Meaning to keep Musk quiet) OR
    Could GM steal Elon Musk’s thunder? (Like capturing the market hype first).

    • Bob_Wallace

      Or capturing the moderate cost vehicle market? That’s the important battle, not who gets more press time.

      • Steve Grinwis

        My next vehicle in three years, when my lease of my Smart EV is up, I’ll be looking for a luxury EV. That could very well be the Model III. I don’t see anyone else putting up a proper luxury EV in the same price point right now.

        • I really expect someone to have a somewhat decent competitor at the same price level by then, but who knows? Would be disappointing if not, but also not too surprising.

          • Offgridman

            With Musk always being so open and clear on the future plans for Tesla while also acknowledging that the time lines sometimes need to be changed due to circumstances, it would seem to be sheer stupidity for either GM, Toyota, or maybe even BMW, VW, or Kia to not have some sort of competition when the Model 3 is released.
            Now granted there have been plenty of examples of the big automotive manufacturers behaving stupidly, but I am hoping that these prior mistakes might tend to hedge the odds towards the idea that there will be another long range, reasonably priced, BEV coming out around the time of the Model 3.

          • Steve Grinwis

            I think if GM were to produce a Model III competitor, it would be a Voltec CTS, which I find uninteresting.

            Mercedes could throw together a 150 mile C class that would be highly interesting though, and they have an EV history.

            An electric 3 Series BMW would also fit the bill…

            Other than that, I don’t see anything on the horizon. These programs would have to be actively being developed right now to hit 2017, and given how little we’ve heard, I doubt they are.

          • Offgridman

            Well the ’15 Kia Soul EV seems to be definitely arriving in the US in the fall of ‘ 14 with a rumored mileage of 90 – 130. VW and associates have been doing a lot of their own battery research with releases in Europe of models this year of around the 100 mile range mark. Along with the extended range rumors of the Leaf, Volt, and Prius.
            Is it really such a stretch to think that at least one of the big manufacturers isn’t going to do something by ’17 to keep Tesla from being the only one to be selling a sub 40 grand (maybe 30) long range EV in the US?

          • Steve Grinwis

            Hey, If they do, I probably win. I’m just not holding my breath.

  • Bob_Wallace

    It would be something.

    But I’d suggest we not get carried away with this rumor. It’s a giant step in terms of capacity and/or price which isn’t how battery stuff has been going.

    • JamesWimberley

      It would be a huge shift in strategy for GM. Up to now, it has been with Toyota in the conservative transition camp, ie. hybrids, which are less of a revolution for consumers. The natural path for GM is evolution of the Volt towards more battery and less ICE. The latter will gradually be redefined from “range extender” to “get-you-home in emergencies”, shrinking to something like the old 375 cc 2CV engine before disappearing in 2025.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I’m not sure it would be a shift in strategy for GM. They’ve been working on a high range EV for some time. They thought they were getting there with Envia, who didn’t deliver as promised.

        It’s possible that a very large battery manufacturer has been able to create breakthrough behind closed doors. They’d have no need to go public in order to gain research/development funds like small companies have to do.

        Get a decent quality/features/comfort EV with at least a 150 mile range and I think the market takes off.

        I’m still going to be cautious about believing until there’s data on deck. Gotta land that fish before bragging about it.

        BTW, I ran across this interesting graph yesterday. It shows dropping battery prices forcing PHEVs and hybrids off the market early with ICEVs hanging on for longer. I’m not sure what to make of it, still chewing….

        • Vensonata

          Nissan leaf are also considering doubling range to 180 miles. Not a big deal as it is rumored Panasonic/ tesla can buy lithium packs at $160 kwh now. If it was similar for leaf then 48 kw should be $7680 so say 32 grand for a close to 200 mile per charge car…could be next year.

        • Jan Veselý

          Hello from the EU. We are now currently paying 6.8 USD/US gallon.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Meanwhile in Canada, we’re currently paying $5.00 / gallon ish in Canada

            $1.38 / L on my drive in today.

          • Rick Kargaard

            A large proportion of which is taxes. Our climate forces much more road maintenance and hopefully most of these taxes go to that use. Still, our prices are high for an oil rich nation

          • Bob_Wallace

            I really don’t understand why Europeans aren’t grabbing all the EVs available.

            You’ve got such excellent rail systems that you really don’t need long distance cars and you’ve got those incredibly high fuel prices.

          • Jan Veselý

            Most probably because there is a more traditional solution. We buy some cheap small car. You don’t need to have SUV to commute, do the shopping, take kids somewhere, etc.
            And also we drive less in average. That means investment costs in total car economy are more important and BEV are still expensive. Hopefully not forever.

          • Bob_Wallace

            When I’ve been in Europe I’ve seen plenty nice, new cars on the road.

            High fuel costs can override purchase price savings in a few years.

          • Jan Veselý

            You are right. But LARGE part of the population can see only upfront costs (a call it the light bulb effect) and typical German sells his/her car after about 4 years (cars go east).

            But be not worried, EVs are also in the EU sold like hot cakes. Current biggest issue of EV production is its capacity. That can and hopefully will be remedied within few years, together with purchase price convergence.

        • Patrick Linsley

          That chart segues nicely with this explanation of why Toyota has desperately pursued this fuel cells instead of BEVs. Very sad that the company that largely introduced the world to battery propulsion in mass produced automobiles is now trying

          • Ronald Brakels

            That’s seems to be going on, except I’ll mention that I think Toyota is only creating the appearance of pursuing fuel cells and fully realises that batteries are way out in front. It’s a smoke screen to discourage investment in electric cars in order to increase the value of their hybrid technology.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’ve seen a couple of news pieces lately about Toyota (IIRC) acquiring a wireless battery charging system and something about Toyota researching better batteries.

            Now that could be related to their hybrids, but it sounded to me as if Toyota is staying involved with EVs

          • Ronald Brakels

            I am certain they are developing all electric cars. They just don’t want people buying all electrics until they’re good and ready. The hydrogen fuel cell car they are supposedly developing is just an electric car with a space where a battery pack could go instead of a fuel cell.

          • Bob_Wallace


            Don’t say that.

            You’ll have the fuel cell zealots coming after you with torches and pitchforks.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Sometimes I think the majority of commenters on the internet have never run a business or participated in a scam to manipulate stock prices.

          • Rick Kargaard

            I am sure you are right about running a business and hope you are right about stock manipulation scams.

          • Patrick Linsley

            On that note hasn’t it been well proven that fuel cell stacks have short lifespans (like they’re shot within 80,000 miles)? And that the hydrogen gas tank will have too be replaced sometime thereafter due to hydrogen embrittlement? I just can’t see them going more than a couple of years before the game is up.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Yes, but I think with the correct application of magic spells these problems can be overcome. Now an improved fuel cell that ran off methane or LPG or gasoline, that could have some specific uses. Imagine a high efficiency, silent emergency generator. But I don’t see us even getting that in a hurry.

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