Best of 2011: GM's Fully Electric 2013 Chevy Spark
As we head into the new year, Energy Digital will be posting some of best stories from 2011 all week. Happy Holidays to all of our readers!
Over ten years ago, it was General Motors (GM) to become the first major automaker to mass-produce electric vehicles. In the late 90s, GM's EV1 was an electric car with huge potential, with support from the California Air Resource Board (CARB) and waiting lists that outpaced production. When GM decided the cars were not profitable, they literally crushed virtually every EV1 ever made, leaving only a few non-drivable models for museums to reminisce on the days fully electric, efficient cars were once a reality.
The controversial discontinuation of the EV1s broke the hearts of many consumers and EV1 advocates, exemplified in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? The director, Chris Paine, now has a new film called Revenge of the Electric Car, following the global resurgence of electric cars mainly from Nissan, GM, and Tesla.
“Ten years after they killed the electric car, it's back,” boldly reads the introduction to the film's trailer:
The truth is, the first major fleet of electric cars hitting the road posed a major threat to the oil industry. A decade later, the green economy has more clout. The oil industry is approaching a tighter market and consumer demand for alternatives is higher. With the same intensity automakers once shut down their premier electric vehicles, they are now racing to build the world's greenest cars.
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Hype around GM's leadership in electric vehicle (EV) rollout has lagged behind. GM's 2010 Chevy Volt introduced a semi-electric car, capitalizing on the consumer fears of running out of battery and getting stranded, but less than 4,000 actually sold. GM's stock has gone down over 30 percent since its IPO last November, with expectations of the Volt failing to hit targets.
As of October, GM announced it would officially launch a fully electric vehicle domestically in the next year. As part of a plan to expand the series of electric cars, the Chevy Spark is expected to become the first all-electric vehicle that will rival the Nissan LEAF, the current top selling electric vehicle in the U.S. Nissan sold seven times more of its Nissan LEAF electric cars than GM sold of its Chevy Volts. Tending to consumer trends, GM pursues a fully electric car in the US in hopes to seize the title of “greenest automaker” from its competitors.
GM's fully electric Chevy Spark:
Set to be produced at a plant in White Marsh, Maryland, the Spark's 85 kW, 114 hp motor will use nonophosphate lithium-ion batteries supplied by A123 Systems and have permanent magnet and induction motors. GM expects other vehicles in the future to run on propulsion motors, while nine of its vehicles already use electric motors as part of the propulsion system. According to GM's Chief Engineer Pete Savagian, each of its electric motors has three long lives of 200k miles each.
“We’ve spent the past few years highlighting our in-house battery capability, which will play a significant role as one of our core competencies going forward,” said Larry Nitz, GM executive director of Vehicle Electrification Engineering. “Electric motor development and manufacturing is another area of expertise we’ll need as we expand vehicle electrification technologies to address the needs of our customers around the world.”
Until recently, electric cars have been held back in the US market due to a lack of choices, high price tags, poor infrastructure for charging stations and low fuel prices. But as the industry faces requirements to produce more fuel-efficient cars by 2025, the competition to build the greenest, sexiest electric cars has stimulated growth and innovation between competitors.
"We welcome competitors into the market," Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan Americas, told Reuters. "We're glad that GM has decided to go pure electric. This brings further validity to the segment."
Under GM Chief Executive Daniel Akerson, GM's fourth CEO since 2009, the company has pursued electric vehicles aggressively and is using the new Spark as a way to recoup some of the lost investment in the Volt. By mass-producing electric vehicle technology, as it did in the 90s, the cost of the cars would make them a fraction of the cost of the $40,000 Volt.
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.