General Motors of India announced last week that a pre-production version of its all-electric Chevrolet Beat mini-car would go on display in April to spur interest for what could become GM India’s second Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV).

In January 2010, at GM's 10th Auto Expo, Chevrolet showcased its first BEV concept, the e-Spark mini-car, a project jointly created with long-established Indian electric automaker REVAi .

The e-Spark is scheduled to launch as India’s first 4-door electric passenger car by the end of 2011. The popular car was chosen as the first to electrify, even as GM also ramped up production for the internal-combustion-powered Spark, and the 100,000th model traversed the assembly line not long after.

Of the conventional Spark, Chevrolet – GM's only Indian brand as of yet – says “it has already emerged as the most sought after mini car in its segment,” and won J.D. Powers’ accolades in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

At this point, GM says the electric Beat – also popular in gas-powered form – is not yet a certainty for production, but dependent on how much demand it can drum up, and government incentives it can help foster.



An electric-powered version of the Beat will be exhibited next month. (Gas-powered version shown. Photo courtesy of GM.)

Presently, incentives for Indian hybrid and electric automobiles include exemption from customs fees and breaks on other duty charges.

As of yet, we know little about the electric powertrain or performance capability for the prototype electric Beat. Requests for information from GM India were not returned before deadline.

With the production green light in view, GM has divulged that under the Spark’s conventional exterior lies a “RECC EV” powertrain developed by REVAi.

The e-Spark will reportedly sell in the neighborhood of 350,000 INR (Indian Rupees, or about $7,771), and Chevrolet says it “will be equipped with a host of smart consumer friendly features.”

In addition to an "intelligent Driver Display System," air conditioning, and stereo with auxiliary jack for connection with MP3 players, it will offer leather seats and – as required in some areas – seat belts.

While the car will lack ABS, it will offer an optional rear-view mirror with integrated camera and video monitor.



Chevrolet of India celebrated its 100,000th conventionally powered Spark as it rolled off the production line in April 2010.

REVAi should be a suitable partner for GM as it was founded as an electric city car maker all the way back in 1994. It began as a joint venture between Indian and U.S. companies and in May 2010 was acquired by the Mahindra Group of India, reportedly a $7.1 billion corporation.

REVAi also sells its mini EVs in London as the G-Wiz , and boasts “one of the largest deployed fleets in the global market and the accumulated data from more than 100 million km [62.1 million miles] of user experience.”

GM India says the REVAi-derived AC motor powering the e-Spark promises “fantastic performance.”

Unknown are the specifics of the fantastic performance, but the REVAi city car is said to get 90 km (56 miles) per charge.

The Chevy e-Spark will utilize a “Regular” drive mode and “Boost” mode which amps up the torque for a short duration as needed.

Last year, the Volt was also displayed alongside the e-Spark. It could eventually come to India, as the Asian sub continent is seen as an extremely fertile market for clean, efficient transportation.


The Spark will be the GM India's first production BEV, and is scheduled to launch before the end of the year. (Gas-powered version shown. Photo courtesy of GM.)

With its burgeoning population still relying heavily on antiquated technology, India has been pushing for means to curb emissions, while simultaneously contending with a dramatically increasing number of drivers.

Last year India had an estimated 110 million drivers – about a third of the entire U.S. population mingled among a population that is more than three times the U.S. population – all crammed into 1.27 million square miles, a space about one-third the size of the U.S.

Its number of drivers represents a doubling since 2000, and the end of upward growth is anywhere but in sight.

In 2007, seven Indians out of 1000 drove. By 2010, 11 out of 1000 drove. Although percentages of .007 and .011 may sound paltry, consider that India’s population of 1.15 billion is the second largest in the world, and one-sixth of the world's entire population of an estimated 6.78 billion. By 2030, India is expected to exceed the most-populous country, China.

We told you it was a fertile market, didn’t we?

It’s probably also a good thing that the new GMs come with seat belts. Unfortunately, while many Indians are being born each year, a significant number are being killed as road traffic increases.


According to Doug Lansky, one of the the pundits and pollsters at the Titanic Awards, in his book of the same name, a driver's license is not legally required in India, and the country ranked second to Italy for having the “world’s worst drivers.”

Less controversial data shows that while India has undertaken a massive program that as of last July licensed 10 million drivers, in 2008 accidents reportedly accounted for around 100,000 deaths in India, a number some project to rise to 150,000 by 2015.

In contrast, in 2009 the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's latest available tally counted 33,808 traffic deaths (not counting motorcyclist deaths which other estimates put at 4,762). NHTSA says the U.S. record is the lowest in 60 years, while others say India could see an increase of around the U.S.' total in the next four.

Not a company to shy away from a challenging, if not also rich potential opportunity, it is into this market that General Motors is plunging itself as fast as it can.

The need for safe-as-possible low- and no-emission vehicles is especially pressing, and GM already sells several small-displacement cars equipped with fuel-sipping petrol and alternative fuel-capable engines.

GM says "the e-Spark will be one of the leading platforms of GM India in its 'Drive to Green' initiative."

As an all-electric, the Beat is hoped to add to GM India’s commitment to provide environmentally friendly transportation – and naturally, add to its increasing sales.

GM entered the Indian market in 1996, and Chevy began selling cars in 2003. GM says Chevrolet is one of India’s fastest growing brands, and operating “state of the art” manufacturing plants in Halol, Gujarat and Talegaon, Maharashtra.

Chevrolet models sold presently in India are the Captiva, Optra, Cruze, Aveo, Aveo U-VA, Spark, Beat and Tavera.

In 2010 Chevy announced a 59-percent year-over-year sales increase of 110,804 units compared to 69,579 the previous year.