GM cancels electric version of Opel Adam city car

Opel Adam RedGeneral Motors’ European division is pulling the plug on an all-electric version of the Opel Adam city car. The pint-sized EV made it through the prototype phase, but Opel says its could not make a business case for the car.

“We could not charge the customer the price needed to make it work on the cost side,” Dieter Metz, chief engineer for the Adam, told Automotive News.

The Adam EV was based on the new city car just launched by the German brand. It would have used the same electric powertrain as the upcoming Chevrolet Spark EV, and, like every other Opel, would have been sold in Britain as a Vauxhall.

Conventional versions of the Adam are powered by an assortment of internal combustion engines. These include a 1.2-liter four-cylinder that produces 69 horsepower, and a 1.4-liter with either 86 or 99 hp.

The Adam joins a growing list of EV city cars that never happened, or barely happened. Toyota scrapped plans to mass-produce an electric version of its iQ, called the eQ (and badged Scion iQ EV in the United States), instead deciding to build a small batch of production models.

Fiat will launch a 500 EV at the 2012 Los Angeles auto show in early December but, like the Toyota/Scion, it will most likely be a limited-production item.

With the European car market depressed, and with other companies wavering in their commitment to EVs, GM may have seen the writing on the wall. Its European operations are already struggling, so burdening Opel and Vauxhall with a relatively expensive car that may not sell well might have seemed like too much of a risk.

The Adam EV would have also put two electric city cars in GM’s portfolio. The Spark is sold in Europe, and it is likely that the Spark EV will be as well when it debuts in 2013. Since the Spark is sold worldwide, it gives GM a bigger market and a better chance to make money on the Spark than the Europe-only Adam.

The Adam EV’s cancellation could fuel a larger discussion on the relevance of EVs or the need for EV-friendly infrastructure, but the simple fact is that the Adam is a cheap small car with an engine just big enough to putter around European cities; it was not the ideal platform for an EV.Chevy Spark front three-quarter gray background

Ideally, an electric car should be designed from the ground-up as such. Even when that’s not the case, very small cars do not seem like ideal candidates for EV conversion. Electric hardware adds weight, which can push these tiny, underpowered cars into the realm of impracticality. Cars like the eQ and Mitsubishi i-MiEV will never make the case for EVs because they’re not very appealing as cars.

GM should focus its efforts on refining and promoting the Spark EV, instead of splitting its resources between the Spark and the Adam.