2014 Chevy Spark EV Prototype Electric Car: First Drive Page 2

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2014 Chevrolet Spark EV prototype, Sausalito, CA, Nov 2012

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV prototype, Sausalito, CA, Nov 2012

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The Spark EV gathered momentum steadily and quickly, and seemed to corner well, with a low center of gravity.

Program engineers said the electric power steering was still being tuned, and that the car's electronic control systems had to be significantly adjusted to cope with the electric Spark's very different front-rear weight balance.

The battery pack, located over the rear axle and forward, weighs 550 pounds, making the front-to-rear weight shift on full power very different in the Spark EV.

Among other modifications, Chevy engineers had to fit a different torsion-beam rear axle and wider rear wheels and tires to the electric version of the Spark.

We look forward to spending time in the production version of the 2014 Chevy Spark EV next summer.

Chevrolet said nothing about pricing for the electric Spark, and we don't expect any prices to be released until much closer to the car's arrival at Chevy dealers.

SAE Combo connector in 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV prototype, Sausalito, CA, Nov 2012

SAE Combo connector in 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV prototype, Sausalito, CA, Nov 2012

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SAE Combo connector

The Chevy Spark EV will be GM's first plug-in car to use the new SAE Combo connector, which includes both a standard J-1772 connector and a new DC fast-charge connector as well, combined into a single plug and socket.

On the new fast-charge standard, Chevrolet says, the Spark EV can recharge its battery to 80 percent of capacity in about 20 minutes.

Thus far, not a single fast-charge station using the new standard is open to the public in the U.S., but they will come--as Level 2 and the existing Japanese CHAdeMO fast-charge standard have.

For 240-Volt Level 2 charging, the Spark EV uses the same 3.3-kilowatt onboard charger as the Volt. If the pack is entirely depleted (a rare occurrence), fully recharging it on Level 2 charging takes roughly 7 hours.

Compliance car or not?

From GM product chief Mary Barra down through other executives and into the program team, Chevrolet maintained consistently--and repeatedly--that the Spark EV is far more than a compliance car built only to meet California's requirements for zero-emission vehicle sales.

The company wouldn't have made the car as good as it is, executives said, if they simply wanted to "tick a box" on one state's regulations.

The 2014 Spark EV includes a number of elements found in the $40,000 Chevrolet Volt, which add unexpected touches of sophistication and luxe to a car whose lesser siblings start at just $12,995 including delivery.

But it remains to be seen whether Chevy rolls the car out beyond California into other states, whether it offers attractive purchase and lease deals, and whether it devotes significant marketing effort to the Spark EV.

Chevrolet provided airfare, lodging, and meals so that High Gear Media could bring you this first-person report.

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