Sunday, May 24, 2015

SparkEV suggestions

Just because SparkEV kicks ass now doesn't mean it can't use some improvements.

Is it a bug or just too smart?

When fan is turned on, sometimes "temp" is also on by itself which turns on the AC or heater. It should always remember the last setting, not do things by itself. This might be a bug in firmware.

After DCFC, parking brake is engaged. While minor, it should be engaged only when commanded to do so. But I don't know if engaging the parking brake is requirement for DCFC.

Limit charge to X percent or miles on select chargers

I live on hill top. 2000 ft high hill, in fact. Going home uses lots of juice, but lots of regeneration occurs on the way down, usually about 10 miles worth. As such, home charging should stop at 10 miles below the maximum. Otherwise, the battery gets overcharged. I once had the range to 100 miles after going down the hill. This can't be good for the battery when it could happen every day. Ideal would be something at the external charging handle to let the car know that it is home and how much to charge, 100% or X miles below.

Where are the chargers?

Currently, I have to printout the locations of the charging stations, type them into the GPS or call OnStar navigation and repeat the address over and over until it gets it. It would be nice if the display shows charging stations along the way, like plugshare. When I'm home, it can connect to my home's Wifi to get the latest info, or maybe even take the data through USB (how? plugshare API?). I don't have smartphone nor do I plan to get one. I don't do wifi in car, nor do I plan to do so. All I want is a way to find charging stations (DCFC only) while driving without having to stop off at Starbucks to use their wifi. Unlike big signs on gas stations, public chargers are well hidden from view.

If all Chevy dealers have publicly accessible DCFC, the GPS map would include locations of Chevy dealers as well. How's that for bringing people in to dealership on regular basis. 

Charge me up, chevy dealers

It seems almost every Nissan, Kia, and BMW dealers have publicly accessible DCFC, but none of the Chevy dealers do. That sucks. When I go to Kia dealer to charge, I see their cars, and some of them are nice (as in interesting to buy in future or recommend to friends). Now I don't expect Chevy dealers to give out charging for free. They should charge some nominal going rate to recoup some cost. eVgo is a good example of how much they should charge. When people find out Chevy dealers have rate as good as eVgo, they'll stop to charge when nearby. They will see some great Chevy cars. At the moment, there are only two cars worth considering from GM: SparkEV, and maybe Corvette as motorcycle substitute for the physically disabled.

As explored in my DCFC post, if dealers are located within SparkEV range across the nation (about 65 miles), one can theoretically drive across country on SparkEV. With camping option (discussed below), they can camp on national parks along the way, too. Now wouldn't that make for some interesting advertising?

Quicker than Mustang and Hellcat

SparkEV is plenty quick for its price. But wouldn't it be nice to make it twice as quick? That should be easy enough to do by increasing the gear ratio by factor of two. But current top speed is only 90 mph, and twice as large ratio will only allow 45 mph, not 60 mph. Well, most city driving "show off" is to about 30 mph, so this would be fine for that. It would allow it to accelerate to 40 mph quicker than most sports cars like Mustang, Camaro, maybe even the Hellcat and Corvette, especially given that monster torque is available immediately at 0 RPM.

If SparkEV has 2 speed gearbox, which may add maybe 100 lbs of gears + clutch, 0 to 60 mph will get a boost and still as practical as current form. Current gearing would remain the same after 45 mph, so top speed will remain at 90 mph. Exactly how quick will have to be determined after such car is built. 0 to 60 mph under 4 seconds is certainly within reach. Imagine that, 0 to 60 mph under 4 seconds for a car costing less than $20K. It will be sold out even before the first car hits the showroom.

Tow a light trailer

If we have all that torque available, wouldn't it be nice to tow a light trailer / cargo weighing under 1000 lb, like the $250 Harbor Freight trailer? This is like 4 adults of 250 lbs each, so it's not outrageous. Freeway top speed with trailer is 55 mph. If the lower gear is to 60 mph and Chevy calls it "towing mode" while keeping the taller gear the same and call it "eco mode", it will allow average home owner to make home depot runs for plywood and 2x4 without having to rent a truck. Heck, one may even be able to build a whole house using SparkEV towing a trailer with lots of trips.

One can also tow light camping trailer like Starcraft. This assumes there's DCFC along the way. Camp sites are usually higher up in elevation, so one can charge via gravity on the way down. Imagine 4 adults (or 2 adults and 2 dogs) go camping with full amenities with only couple of dollars worth of "fuel"; wouldn't that make for some interesting commercial? With the ability to tow small trailer, small cargo capacity drawback of SparkEV is significantly reduced.

3 gears best of all

If SparkEV gets clutch and 2 gears, adding a third gear is not all that difficult. Then why not? Have the first gear as "city sport mode" where it would be optimal for 0 to 30 mph sprint (45 mph max) to spank Mustangs and Hellcats. Second gear would be "tow mode" where it can travel 60 mph max. Third gear would be "eco mode" where 65 mph will return most efficiency. Combined, it would out accelerate most sports cars under $200K (maybe even out run the Corvette) in 0 to 30 or 40 mph, utility of a light pick up, and return 110 MPGe or more all in one car. One would be crazy not to buy this car. Well, maybe not for people who live in "when I pee outside, it turns to smoke" areas. But then, they're crazy to live there in the first place. Exposing their most important digit to such low temperature is doubly crazy.

Will they gear up?

Of course, this is all wishful thinking. I doubt Chevy will build SparkEV with gears that will out accelerate the Camaro and maybe even the Corvette in typical city driving. It will not allow trailers that may seem to eat into their truck sales. After all, we are talking about GM management here, the dunces of the automotive world.

But considering there are bright ones who built SparkEV, there is some hope. It makes no sense to stop improving SparkEV to save slower cars like Camaro and Vette. That's the North Korean way of thinking by killing the capable to appease the least capable. Instead, Chevy should investigate how they can make their higher end cars quicker. De-sparking SparkEV makes no sense; competition will eat them alive in very short time. They should've learned this from EV1 crush after which Toyota dominated the hybrid market, even to this day. And hybrids don't make much sense economically while SparkEV is economically sound.

Careful observers, even layman, will note that very light pickups are dominated by the Japanese. In fact, biggest selling pick up is Ford, not GM. If SparkEV eats into pickup sales with the ability to tow 1000lb trailer, it would most likely hurt the very light Japanese pick up trucks. I doubt people who would've bought the Silverado to switch to SparkEV and cargo trailer. There really won't be much impact to GM truck sales, but it will sting the competition, maybe even very hard. If anything, they'll come to the dealership to check out wonder-car SparkEV and be convinced to buy their next truck from Chevy instead of Ford.

It's all wishful thinking, but I hope there will be quicker, cheaper, more efficient and better utility SparkEV in the future. SparkEV spanking Hellcats on Colorado Blvd gives me the giggles. Here's another Corona toast for hoping for brighter, improved future of SparkEV.

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