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After the Volt? The Chevy Spark

Stocks in this article: GM

For those longer road trips, after the first 35 gas-free miles, driving the Volt at a speed of 70 miles per hour, mileage will be closer to 35 MPG than 40 MPG. That's a little bit behind the 47 MPG a Prius will likely yield at that kind of speed. Still, getting 35 MPG or more will handily beat the Porsche Panamera.

GM (GM) made the mistake in launching the Volt by branding it a Chevrolet. It should have been a Cadillac, given that it's a premium construction car competing mostly with cars costing a lot more. Anyway, the Cadillac version of the Volt arrives in early 2014, in conjunction with what is expected to be the updated Chevrolet Volt 2.0.

Some people, however, aren't considering a car at those price levels. Some people would only consider an electric car if it cost under $30,000 before any tax incentives. As a reminder, a plug-in electric car with a battery 16 kWh or larger is eligible for up to $7,500 in a federal tax credit, as well as $1,500 from the state of California, if that's where you live.

And the largest number of electric car drivers live in California. Surprise, surprise.

Therefore, once that sticker price falls below $30,000, the net cost to the consumer starts to look a lot like it's hitting $20,000. That's below the average new car price in the U.S. today.

Chevy's Next Star

The net price of a base Volt is $30,995 today ($39,995 minus $9,000 in tax credits), but what car could shave that by third or even more?

The Chevrolet Spark, due approximately one year from now, that's what!

With the Chevy Spark, GM will try to undercut the Nissan LEAF, the Ford Focus Electric, and the various BMWs that are and will be in the market in the next two years, such as the current BMW ActivE and the upcoming BMW i3. I predict that the Chevy Spark Electric, when it hits the U.S. market by the second quarter of 2013, will cost no more than approximately $29,000 before any applicable tax incentives.

Unlike the Volt, the Chevy Spark will of course not be a zero-compromise performance car, but rather compete with the small all-electric cars with limited range. The EPA-certified ranges of the LEAF, Focus and ActivE, respectively, are 73 miles, 76 and 93. There is no good indication yet as to the range of the Chevy Spark, but it will most likely be a lighter car that has the potential for breaking the 100-mile barrier, perhaps even 110 or 120 -- or 140.

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