Friday, April 11, 2008

Spark-EV Closed Down - A Torrid Tale of Broken Promises and Vaporware

Edit: It seems that Spark-EV has shut it's doors, the owner replacing the former website with a description of events that led to Spark's downfall. I'm sorry for posting without researching the company better, but the posted letter is interesting reading!

Previous Post:

I had thought that I was keeping up on the development of this generation of electric vehicles, being completely disappointed by the lack of commitment from American carmakers and the plethora of vaporware from the likes of Zap!, and anxiously awaiting a "new" EV1 that is affordable, practical, and has a decent range. While Tesla has finally started production of their legendary electric roadster, at 100,000 clams, this is still far out of reach of the average eco-conscious consumer. However, I recently came across Spark-EV, a U.S. company that supposedly already has 3 models in production and 2 more pending certification for 75+mph highway operation and over 100 miles to a charge. All that plus a few neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), 2 electric scooters, and a futuristic 3 wheel EV in the works as well!

The largest option currently available is the Qilin, a 5-seater mini-SUV akin to a Honda CRV with a range of 100+ miles/charge, top speed of 80mph, and a price tag of $27,950. Next is the Zotye (pictured) with a range of 110+ miles, top speed of 75mph, and goes for $24,900. The smallest current full-speed option is the Dragon, a compact similar to a VW Golf or Toyota Matrix with a range of 125+ miles, top speed of 80mph, and sells for $24,950. They also have a micro-compact dubbed the Panda, that is pending full-speed certification, but is a 2-seater similar to a SmartCar that will get you 80mph and 125+ miles per charge for $21,950. These all run on LiFePO4 batteries that charge fully in 10 hours, but can get 75% charge in 5 hours.

Let's do some simple calculations: The average commuter drives 15,000 miles/year, estimate fuel efficiency at a generous 30mpg, and you're using 500 gallons of fuel per year. Over the next 10 years, with fuel prices climbing, let's estimate a lowball average cost of $5/gallon. If you add in solar panels for "free" charging at home (the solar installation will pay itself off in 10-15 years as well in savings), by this calculation, your fuel savings alone in the next 10 years will pay for the price of the entire car! If you're still a skeptic, you can refer to The S.E.E.P.'s New Car Buyer's Guide, which basically says - don't buy a new car! Over the next 10 years peak oil, emissions restrictions, and rising fuel prices will force a significant change in our transportation infrastructure. Combine that with the upfront cost of a new vehicle and the incredibly fast depreciation, you're much better off either buying a used vehicle, preferably one capable of using biofuels, so you can wait for the next generation of electrics and new technology, or buy an all-electric now, which will save you more and more money as fuel prices increase. For the DIY'er, you can build your own EV with a kit from Electro-Auto, EV USA, or pick up kit plans from Riley Enterprises. In addition, battery technology will continue to improve at a rapid pace, so by the time your new EV needs new batteries, it is probable that you'll be able to extend your range by upgrading to an ultracapacitor, hydrogen, or other type of next-generation battery.

We need to stop fearing new technology and think outside of our fossil-fuel box. We still have a chance to change what we have set in motion and preserve much of the planet for our children, but we all need to make some sacrifices and take some risks.


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