Published on July 26th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro


Chevy Sonic EV With 200-Mile Range Is Coming In 2016!

July 26th, 2014 by  

Originally published 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 steal 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.

  • lasvegascolonel

    GM has been saying for years that they need an EV since the Spark EV is only sold in California and Oregon. This may be the EV. The Volt is great for those who don’t mind dealing with a gas engine, but for those who want no part of spark plugs, oil changes, radiators, coolant, etc., this could be a good option along with the new EVs from Mercedes, VW, Ford, Nissan, etc. My neighbors who have EVs have it as their only vehicle, simply renting a gas burner when they want to take a road trip…and charging an EV here in Nevada is anywhere from $0 to $2.75 a charge. More and more people are using free solar power off their hot water/generator, or the free charging at the electric company and auto dealers. Additionally, many cities and towns offer free EV power stations.

  • jontiki

    Looks like GM may really be on board with EV Tech……..

  • philip d

    I’d be shocked if they stuffed a 50-55kw battery under a Sonic platform. GM spent so much time designing the Volt and its aero to get a good cd to increase range. The new 2016 Volt will be built on a new platform with one would think has as good or better aero as well as more passenger and cargo volume. Why would they then take a Sonic which has almost identical passenger volume and cargo but worse aero to build their longer range EV? It would make no sense.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I can’t see GM doing a patch-up 200 mile EV. I think the “Truth About Cars” cobbled together some odd and unconnected bits and pumped an article to get them some hits.

      I’m sure GM would like to steal some of Tesla’s thunder by bringing a long range, more affordable EV to market ahead of Tesla. But they’re smart enough to know that they’d get nowhere with filling up the engine compartment and trunk of a low aerodynamic car with batteries.

      An ~50 kW EV needs thinking through. Putting the batteries low and center as Tesla has done seems to have been a great approach. Makes for a very low center of gravity and doesn’t impact on passenger and cargo room. Hard to see deviations from that design unless batteries get tiny.

  • GM better hope that the price Elon is stating for the Model III is after tax credit i.e. $42,500 actual msrp. I seriously doubt the styling, packaging, and refinement of the Sonic will come close to matching the model III. The Sonic will have to be priced well below whatever the MSRP of the Tesla III will be. Same goes for Nissan and their updated 2016 LEAF with potentially a longer range battery as an option.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    Comparing Tesla III to Chevy Sonic is like comparing Toyota Corolla to Audi A4 Quatro.

    • Ross

      If the unlikely event that they bring it in AWD for $35k it will he a heck of a lot of car for the money.

      • Steve Grinwis

        They’ll also have my deposit… *drool*

  • Nozferatu

    FIrst off, the Spark isn’t Smart sized…it’s a pretty cavernous car inside. Second of all, 200 miles is possible given the fact that right now I average 110 miles per charge on my Spark EV.

    • Shiggity

      It’s just that the market gets really bad when you’re offering a sub compact for over 30,000$. It’s just the US consumer mindset.

      • sault

        Exactly, and I expect the Tesla Model III or whatever to be a lot more refined and worthy of a $35k price tag than a Chevy.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It seems to me that Musk/Tesla realize that they need to compete not only on electric vs. ICE but on as many levels as possible.

          The S is (IMHO) a beautiful car. The Leaf, Spark, Sonic, Prius, Volt as well as Toyota FCEV looks do nothing at all for me.

          Then the S earned the highest possible safety rating.

          It’s apparently beautifully built and appointed. (I haven’t been inside one.)

          It’s super fast, readily competing with cars that cost a lot more.

          Their service policy is steps ahead of any other car company with which I’m familiar.

          And they created a network of superchargers. And made charging free for their top model.

          • Eric Ryder

            I’m betting the Model 3 arrives way too late in the game – probably 2018 – and will be closer to $40k. I think the 2016 Leaf will be the breakthrough EV. It will come in just under $35k – which is still too much. After rebates, these cars need to be $20k or less for big adoption. $25k is pushing it unless you just lease cars and throw your money away forever. the Sonic is too small; the Spark EV is better. too bad they aren’t going to use it – or preferably something much cooler, like a Camaro. I’ll sacrifice some mile range for coolness, as long as it can hit 150 miles, or so, of the 200 miles the Sonic reportedly will do.

          • Bob_Wallace

            With the average car price at $32k it’a bit hard to see why EV prices would need to move to $20k or less before we see wide moves to EVs.

          • I wouldn’t bet against you. Wish we had more early hints from Nissan, but I do lean toward thinking that it will be the first to bring a long-range, affordable EV to market.

        • MarTams

          Elon Musk has an impressive record of dramatically missing the target price by a lot more and technical delays. Tesla fan boys are in denial and will sugar coat the high price and delays. I am 150% confident that Tesla Model III will be way over $35K before tax credits and the vapor will condense into a car later than 2017.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Perhaps you could give us a list of those time and cost misses?

            I checked on line and couldn’t find a list, I assume you must have one?

            In terms of big promises I found that Elon stated that they would release the S before the end of 2012 in June of 2011. That announcement was met by a lot of skepticism.

            The first ten Model Ss were delivered to customers on June 22, 2012 so I guess that won’t be on your miss list.

            I do know that they had a setback on the Roadster when their transmission supplier delivered a product that didn’t hold up to the motor’s torque and they had to take that project in house. So there’s one that should be.

          • Jouni Valkonen

            The biggest setback for Tesla was of course the trouble with Roadster . . . it was almost harder to do an electric car into Lotus Elise chassis than to build new EV chassis from ground up.

            Second problem was that the first design of Model S was a failure and Tesla had to start over again. Therefore S was delayed by more than a year. But of course this delay was 100 % good, because it is better to wait before everything is just right than to release a product that is not as good as it could be. Tesla did very good with S as they took their time to make as good car as they can.

            Model X delays were planned as Tesla had no hurry to go forward with that. After all X just supplements S. Tesla still can sell in advance every car that they can manufacture.

          • GCO

            The successor to the Roadster was initially promised at half its price. Where can I get that Model S for less than 50k$ after incentives?

            Battery swapping is another “announced/promised then forgotten” (except when it comes to CARB ZEV credits).

            I absolutely admire Elon Musk for all he’s accomplished so far but indeed, he tends to be quite… optimistic.

          • dgaetano

            “Where can I get that Model S for less than 50k$ after incentives?”

            The first year they were released.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yep, he missed that one. The lower range S was $62,500 after subsidy. $55,500 in California. $54,500 in Colorado.

            And Tesla did demonstrate battery swapping. But so far hasn’t created any stations.

          • GCO

            Tesla never produced the 40 kW*h Model S; the too-few who had put deposit on one early on got another vehicle, a discounted crippled 60.

            Similarly, despite announcements, no battery swapping station are available. While a demo station was shown, once, none but Tesla can tell whether it even worked (none has verified that the pack was properly (re)attached, that coolant didn’t escape or was refilled, etc).

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, and no.

            Tesla honored their agreement to sell 40 kWh Ss for under $50k (with subsidies) by crippling some 60 kWh models and selling them to the few people who had signed up to purchase the sub $50k model.

            Only 4% of buyers showed an interest in a 40 kWh S. There was very limited demand so Tesla canceled that model while still delivering as promised.
            Then, here’s a video of two Tesla battery swaps, on a stage in front of a crowd, with both cars driving off with their new batteries in less time, combined, than it takes to fill a ICEV tank. One of the Ss remains on the side of the stage with no apparent cooling fluid flowing around.
            You know, you’re really digging hard to support the change that Musk/Tesla have been extraordinarily bad at producing when promised and for the price.
            Your team just won by a record number of touchdowns. Your quarterback just set new records for yards gained both passing and running. Played without a single interception or fumble.

            Your response?

            “Well, on that one play he was tackled for a one yard loss.”

          • MarTams

            Planned delays are still delays!!!!! Postponement are still delays!!!!! What do I get if i can state at least a couple more than what you stated?

            So everyone agrees with me and never challenged the fact that Elon’s final prices are much higher than the very first target price! Wahoo!

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Elon Musk has an impressive record of dramatically missing the target price by a lot more and technical delays.”

            OK, so based on your initial post and this most recent one should we surmise that you are big on drama and low on facts?

          • Alan Dean Foster

            You don’t get anything unless you learn how to use exclamation points appropriately/

          • Ross

            Elon Musk has been very open about their strategy. Tesla have sensibly started at the high end of the market. The Tesla 3 is going to be a mid to high end car. The production volumes will still be comparatively small. The car after the 3 might be their volume car.

    • eveee

      It can be a small car and still be premium. The Prius come to mind as a car that has good interior space, despite small exterior dimensions. Where the Spark falls down is aerodynamics, especially compared to the Prius. Given that it gives you 110 miles and you probably seldom need to go that far without recharging, it might not be very relevant. That might be GMs marketing rationale. From a marketing perspective, it shares a disadvantage with the Focus EV, having only four seats. The consumer mindset of the 5 passenger vehicle is hard to deal with. Thats why the Prius has five seats, but as in all small cars, the fifth seat is debatable. GM chose to source the GM car from the Daewoo line, an existing ICE vehicle, and shares that disadvantage with the Ford Focus. It looks like a quota effort, not a built from the ground up EV, like the Leaf and the i3. Buyers have to weigh the advantages of made to order design versus the lower cost of conversion. Strangely, all of this has had made less difference than the fifth seat.

  • Bob_Wallace

    This is at least 99% rumor.

    Best to not consider there anything to this until/unless there are some facts on the table.

    • eveee

      Sounds like GM announcing vaporware to hold off the competition. They made a brave defense of Cadillac against the Model S, but resistance is futile. One wonders if Tesla set the bar so high, its difficult for any manufacturer to exceed it in the luxury EV space. Thats been true so far. Ever drive one? Dead quiet. Velvet smooth ride. Technology tour de force.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I think someone (ones) other than GM are driving this train.

        GM apparently has a better battery coming.

        Quite a while back a GM exec made the 200 mile range statement. That was when Envia was promising to deliver a superior battery that probably would have given them about 200 miles.

        Take one fact and add in one stale-dated quote and one gets a rumor best treated as a rumor. Extremely questionable until proven.

  • Republic

    Who pays $35,000 for a car that looks like a Chevy Sonic?

    • sCuNxN

      people with a conscience

    • GCO

      I paid close to that for a Leaf, and would again in a heartbeat.
      Your opinion about looks sounds pretty irrelevant to me in comparison to a few numbers:
      – 5000$: amount I saved on gas so far
      – 13h: time I saved not pumping it

      – 11.1 tons (24500lb) of CO2 avoided not burning it (and that doesn’t include producing it).
      Then there are other perks: instant torque, not supporting our OPEC “friends”, trivial maintenance… I guess my priorities are different than yours.

      • Republic

        Our priorities are the same; I drive a BEV myself. However, it’s easy to be caught in an ethical bubble isolated from market reality. We need EVs that get everybody excited, not just early adopters and environmentalists. A $35,000 Sonic would be creamed by a $35,000 Model 3 if the latter has a fraction of the sex appeal of the Model S.

        • Eric Ryder

          Totally agree. And given my height – 6’4″ – the Sonic is a deal-breaker for me. The Spark EV has more headroom – but lacks some in width and leg-room. The i3 is not much better. The Ford Focus Electric is very nice – probably the best of the bunch – but I’m sitting in the back seat while driving. Wish the car makers would create a decent 2-door coupe so I don’t look left and see the door jamb. My worry is the Model 3 will be the same issue. Hoping the 2016 Leaf has it all…

  • Shiggity

    82 miles to 200 miles is not happening. I’ll be amazed if they get to 150.

    • I think it is entirely doable, but it will take a very low aerodynamic drag car, and just sticking an electric drivetrain in a short (front to back) hatchback, it si going to be tough to get the drag down low enough.

      If the battery is much higher energy density, then great, the capacity of the pack may well fit into the car – but it will still cost a lot. By putting in the required engineering into the car chassis, to make it as efficient as possible, and the require pack capacity is reduced a lot – and the cost to build it comes down.

      Case in point is the Illuminati Motor Works ‘7’ – it goes 220+ miles at 60-70mph on it’s 33kWh pack. Compare this to the Tesla Model S 60 that goes ~206 miles on it’s 60kWh pack.

      • Steven F

        any good induction motor will achieve +90% efficiency. The motor has little to do with the cars efficiency. The very low drag, and very low weight and the fact it is covered with solar panels is most of the reason it can go so far on 130 pound battery.

        Between the passenger seat and drier seat is a large tunnel that allows most o the air to flow under the car. it would be impossible for the passenger to slide over to the driver seat. The most of the car body is a very thin fiberglass shell. Add to that solar panels that can supply most of the power it needs on sunny day explains most of the range.

        The people that built it was to make it commercially. I don’t think that is possible. The body is not strong enough to pass the minimum crash standards. furthermore most customers would not want an interior that barely has enough room for two small jump seats. Just fixing those two items will greatly add to the cars weight and will greatly increase drag and radically shorten the range.

        • It did not use the solar panels on this drive, on purpose. It can go ~500 miles when it is using it’s solar panels on a sunny day.

          There is a huge difference between ~90% and ~95% efficiency, and ~97% efficiency is astounding.

          I do think that an AC induction motor (no permanent magnets) is important – because coasting! The IMW ‘7’ has a 95% efficient AC induction motor, and it defaults to free wheel coasting. This is the most efficient way to move the vehicle. Regen is fine – but *only* when you need to slow down the car.

          It is possible to have a “rising” underside without the large tunnel. I agree that the SunSwift is not perfect. There have been other very high efficiency EV’s that have solar PV charging; and some have been 4 seat designs with more practical interior designs – STELLA is the one I am thinking of.

      • eveee

        Neil – I am really discouraged by automakers lack of interest in aerodynamic drag. On an average car, its two thirds of drag at highway speeds. Both EV-1 and the original Insight had rear wheel covers. A Nash had front and rear wheel coves in the early fifties. Mirrors are still required, even though cameras are becoming ubiquitous. Tesla has lobbies for changes in mirror laws. Yet, the original Nissan Leaf was Cd=0.29 and Volt was similar. Even the Prius has lower drag at 0.25. Its no use building an EV that only stores the equivalent of a gallon of gas, 33 kwhr, and then make them as inefficient as ICE, especially considering the cost of batteries. ICE conversions are a waste. The most impressive vehicle at the Automotive X prize way the Li-Ion Wave2, winner of the side by side contest. Their energy use was shockingly low, almost as low as the tandem (inline) two seat motorcycle that had lower frontal area. The numbers were broadcast by telemetry from the track. I spoke with these folks. Notice it has front and rear wheel coverings. No mirrors. These folks know cars. My greatest admiration to the folks of Illuminati who did a magnificent job.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Aerodynamics has to be balanced against what the market is willing to purchase.

          Car companies don’t operate with untied hands.

          • eveee

            Yes. With customers demanding 4WD SUVs with roof racks… lets just say the problem is not the eco minded driver. If they want to do 75mph for hundreds of miles with the air conditioning on while towing a big trailer…. Its gonna cost. And it should. At one time aerodynamics was modern vogue.


            The Nash Aero is featured as a modern police car in all kinds of old films.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Studebaker was very aerodynamic for its time. Modeled after jet fighters.

            It never gained much market share. Looked too odd.

            I remember the same reaction when the Ford Probe was introduced. We’ve more or less gotten use to that shape now.

          • Right, but the VW XL1 is a gorgeous car, by most people’s opinions, and it is the lowest drag “production” car ever made.

          • Bob_Wallace

            My guess is that the market will find the front half acceptable and better. The back half is going to look strange and many people do not want to drive strange.

            It’s an easier sell than the Aptera, for example, but it doesn’t have the curb appeal of the Tesla.

            Not saying that we shouldn’t be working toward very aerodynamic vehicles. Just that we need to expect the buying public to come along gradually and only with some education and encouragement.

          • You are probably being realistic, but it is also possible that the “cool” factor overcomes the newness. The Elio (unamed vehicle) is another case where different is not immediately rejected, by most people.

            Because low aero drag is what will make EVs both longer range and less expensive to buy. And those sell.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I disagree. I think the Elio will be (if ever marketed) a very hard sell to the majority of car purchasers.

            I think a lot of people would rather spend an extra $100 per month on fuel than be seen driving an Elio-type vehicle.

            After ten years on the road and a lot of experience with Elio owners saving on fuel perceptions might/should change, but initial market resistance will be high.

          • When I saw the Elio in person, all I heard was complimentary about the looks.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A least it’s lime green….

          • The one I saw had the front wheel fairings, and it was orange. They offer a lot of bright colors.


          • Bob_Wallace

            Neil, have you considered that you may be looking at these highly aerodynamic designs through a pair of “super efficiency fan” goggles?

            Only a very small percentage of the greater public wear those goggles.
            That’s no criticism of you. I agree that we should see the beauty in efficiency. But in terms of selling cars and staying in business….

          • That thought has occurred to me, and it probably true – I am biased. But that doesn’t make me wrong. 🙂

          • eveee

            Neil – Yes. I could not agree more. I loved the Aptera. It looked like an airplane not a car. An all white body also looks good to me. I just want a vehicle that uses technology and rewards me for being progressive. I don’t mind if people say, what was that? Did you see that thing go by? I didn’t even hear a sound. To me, beautiful is as beautiful does. Going miles and miles on less and less energy is thrilling.

          • The X-Prize Aptera was better in person than it was in pictures, but it was a major disappointment in efficiency. The prototypes just before the S0-1 were much better looking and much lighter, and got a lot of people lusting after them.

        • Actually, aerodynamic drag is 50% at ~30MPH and ~75% at 55MPH, and it hits 85% at 70MPH!

          I was able to be at the X-Prize Knockout Round, as a guest member of the Edison2 team, and there were several low drag cars there, including the Very Light Car and the Li-Ion, the Illuminati Motor Works ‘7’, the Aptera, the FVT eVaro, and the e-Tracer.

          Number one factor for efficiency is drivetrain efficiency – and electric drivetrains beat all comers. 85-92% plug-to-wheel is going to be the best we can get.

          Second most important factor is aerodynamic drag; as mentioned. Aero drag is a *total* loss, always.

          Weight is the third most important factor. Electrics have several advantages, though: because they are so efficient, the penalty for accelerating the car is much less. Free wheel coasting gets the most out of that “investment” by moving the car forward for *no additional* energy; once it is moving. Coast down a hill – it’s road candy! And no idling losses, either.

          Then when you need to slow down, you get to use regen. So, weight requires energy to get it moving, but there are two ways to regain that energy.

          Last factor is rolling resistance, and weight is part of this, but using low rolling resistance tires (like the BMW i3) helps a lot. Good bearings and alignment, and low drag brakes, etc. make up this drag. Rolling resistance is more or less linearly increasing drag, and it is surpassed (on most cars) at 30MPG by the aero drag; which increases on a steepening curve.

          • sault

            “Road Candy”

            Love it!

          • eveee

            Neil – Wonderful. There are some great references and graphics on Tesla website. There is a wealth of data. I used some of it to help design an electric vehicle in the Automotive X prize contest. Speaking of drivetrain efficiency, its hard to beat in hub motors. No gears. You were there with Edison? I was there with Optamotive. I was just looking at some videos of that massive rain squall that hit that one day and the amazing job that one team (unfortunately did not make it) did of assembling a bathtub like car from parts just in time to meet a deadline. There was thunderous applause from all the other crews. I will never forget my experiences there. The winner of side by side, Li-Ion, a guy came over and asked me if I had a ground fault detector circuit, because theirs did not work. They nearly did not make it. I could not help them at the time, and I became friends with them and many of the other team members from that team and others.

          • Yes, I was a guest member of the Edison2 team, and I was there the week when that rain squall as you put it, happened. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I will always be grateful to Oliver Kuttner for inviting me to be there. I met and talked to many of the teams (Illuminati, FVT, WWU, Amp, Global-E, RaceAbout, TX4XP, West Philly and others), and I learned a lot.

            Spira was a favorite – I think they had a lot of doubters at the beginning, but they earned the respect of all the competitors. I watched the “race” at the Final on the video stream and they were letting it all hang out!

            Hub motors have a lot of advantages, including efficiency and compact packaging. The main downside is increased unsprung weight; and I like the FVT solution to this – direct drive with two motors back to back driving the front wheels through driveshafts.

      • Elon claims an 8% (I believe) improvement in battery price/performance ratio each year. With annual compounding this is quite significant and by 2016 the battery pack will be significantly better than what is currently in the Volt.

        • Battery improvements are great, but we can improve the efficiency of the car to get more range from all batteries. Both are critical, and we know that 200+ range EVs are possible in an affordable car.

          • eveee

            We sure can. The efficiency of modern cars stinks. The Leaf improved Cd from 0.30 to 0.29? And it has no radiator to ruin aero. Volt at about the same level? What about the i3? Not much better. The best battery is a car that does not need as much battery because it is efficient. The auto cos are just not interested. The result is PHEV and hybrids with lousy fuel efficiency like the Chevy sedan, Honda Accord, etc. The market panned them. At lest the Prius Cd is 0.25. It seems crazy that they went backward from the Insight with rear wheel spats to open wheels on the Prius. At least offer it as an option. If they offered folding mirrors, from the inside, and a rear camera… heaven. I was disappointed in LIt motors for leaving the wheels open. All that unnecessary drag. They started out saying their highway range would be 200 miles. Did not seem right to me. Sure enough, they backed it off to 200 mile range, a hint that its only in town. Here is the thing. If an EV could go 200 miles highway on 8 to 10 kwhr, then you could charge it up in 90 minutes or less on 240V, 40 amp. Those are available at most RVs. Then you could travel 3 hours, eat lunch and charge. Travel again, eat dinner and charge. And travel to a hotel or destination and charge. Voila. Cross country EVs for less than a Tesla and without the Tesla Supercharge network. The model S has a gigantic battery pack. I don’t like that route. Too expensive and inefficient.

  • CaptD

    Title HYPED
    “reports that a Chevy Sonic EV with a 200-mile range could debut alongside the 2016 Chevy Volt”.

    • Alan Dean Foster

      Nailed it.

      • CaptD

        eVehicles are cool enough and eHYPE will only harm their image – CaptD

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