Whilst the U.S. and Europe get the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2012 Opel and Vauxhall Ampera, it seems all the full battery-electric vehicles are going to the Far East, and they're keeping fairly quiet about it.
A few months back we revealed GM's plans to test an electric version of the Chevrolet Cruze sedan in South Korea. The prototype uses a 31-kilowatt-hour battery pack and offers a range of up to 100 miles, competitive with the 2011 Nissan LEAF. Performance is competitive too, with an 8.2 second 0-60mph time, and a top speed of around 100mph.
Now, Shanghai GM has revealed the Sail electric concept vehicle. Developed by Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automorive Center (PATAC), the Sail EV is based on a regular gasoline car of the same name that went on sale at the beginning of 2010. In terms of size, the Sail sits below the Cruze, but above the Spark.
Powered by a 64 kilowatt motor producing maximum torque of 162 lb/ft, the Sail should offer more than adequate performance for the "ordinary Chinese families" the car is targeted at. Maximum speed is less than the Cruze EV at 80 miles per hour, and range is a little less too at around 93 miles. In congested Chinese cities though, this should be more than enough. Some energy can be reclaimed though regenerative braking and an Intelligent Charging Assisting System maximizes the energy conversion ratio.
The Sail shouts louder about its electric powertrain than the Cruze did, with unique wheel designs, a streamlined body and some fancy graphics, which GM said has been "inspired by leaves", though presumably not those of a Nissan variety...
GM has said before that they're going to start producing electric cars in small numbers "for testing purposes". What the Sail and Cruze EVs tell us is that GM is serious about the electric car. GM branches all around the world are able to develop high technology products which will surely be of benefit to the company as a whole, as technical expertise from local partners such as PATAC is eventually shared worldwide.
Might this one day lead to a new GM EV1? We can only hope.