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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Comments (19)
  1. Wow!

    " rated at 100 kilowatts (134 hp) of peak output, higher than the 85 kW (114 hp) cited last year. Peak torque is quoted at a whopping 400 lb-ft."

    That is the FASTEST EV beside Tesla!

    7 hours at 3.3KW means the battery pack is probably around 25KWh...

    That is one nice EV. What is the price range? This should give Leaf a run for its money for EV commuters.

    I can't believe that my Volt will be spanked by this little thing in performance.

  2. The A123 Core Battery Pack has ~23 kWh capacity, not sure if is being used, but specs dimentions are similar: http://www.a123systems.com/products-systems-energy-core-pack.htm

    The 100 kW (134 HP) motor rating is likely a peak value and not the sustained max operation value. Still great performance in relation to existing ICE models of the Spark.

    Compared to Fit EV's 20 kWh battery & 92 kW (123 HP) motor, the Spark EV should be a fun drive. :)

  3. Big numbers for a small car. Fluence is not slow with 85kW so this will be pretty quick with 100kW. Sounds like the battery is even bigger too.

  4. I think the 3.3kW charger is a mistake for the Spark (adequate for the Volt), as AC L2 EVSEs will outnumber DC QCs for a long time to come. The 2011/2012 Leaf with a 3.3 suffers compared to its competition with 6.6s, and I expect the Spark will too.

  5. With extensive body revisions, I hope they have provided more space for stowing golf a bag(s) with clubs behind rear seat (out of sight; can't do this in petro version).

  6. @Wirecup: Actually the cargo space in the Spark EV is identical to that of the gasoline version, neither less nor more.

  7. Going by the specs so far it's looking to be a fairly good EV besides from the slow level 2 charger.

    Problem is it's still a question mark if the base car (the gasoline powered Spark) will appeal to the US market in the first place. I'm worried like the Mitsubishi i (which was too quirky for US tastes) and the Smart Fortwo (which lost its appeal quickly after good sales early on) that the base car may be too small/quirky for US tastes.

  8. @Jake: Actually, it appears even GM has been caught off-guard by the number of Sparks it's selling. More than 2,000 were sold in October, and more than 8,000 since it went on sale in August.


  9. Although I like the look of the Spark, I don't think the Spark EV will do much to slow the reputation of EVs being "clown cars." However, I think it looks better than the "i".

    In any case, it is nice to see a serious offering in the EV market segment.

    "Sport mode, which changes the throttle mapping to reduce acceleration times."

    "Throttle"? does this thing have a "throttle"? :)

  10. Well, there is nothing better than a "clown car" EV that blow away an ICE car at stop light...

  11. For what it is worth, the "VoltAge" website says "20 KWH" very clearly.

  12. I'm pretty surprised (GASP!) that they would use the license plate number "SPRK EV1" in the animation, given all the awful publicity and feelings about the original EV1 car ('96 - '99).

  13. The LINE about EV folk being more conservative. I LIKE RED
    and lots of the folks in the National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA.com) like RED too !
    Steve Lough
    Pres. Seattle EV Association

  14. The very concept of this vehicle has "compliance car" written all over it. The drivetrain is great with a powerful motor and long lasting, presumably costly battery technology but it all goes to waste in the nasty, bargain basement Spark platform that can't possibly justify the price GM would have to charge to make this a viable commercial proposition. It's Coda all over again. The only reason I can think of why GM would mate an otherwise great drivetrain with the cheapest platform they had on tap is to minimize cost in building a car which only purpose is to help meet local regulations.

  15. I wouldn't call this drivetrain great if it was installed in a large car such as Malibu or even the Volt.

    It is only great b/c the weight/power ratio in such a small vehicle.

    GM sees pure EV as a commuting vehicle only that is NOT fit for long distance travel. That is why it is NOT looking at it from Tesla's point view. In a sense, it is also proven GM is correct in that sense. Telsa's solution cost over $80k...

  16. Still, at this point an electric drivetrain like this is bound to be a pretty expensive proposition, it needs to go into a platform that can somewhat justify a substantial price tag. Trust me, nobody is going to pay serious money for a Spark, no matter what powers it. In an Aveo or Cruze this drivetrain might have made a more sensible proposition.

    Maybe GM will prove me wrong and it did manage to make this the cheap car it will needs to be, but I doubt it.

  17. A typical Spark ICE cost about $15k. So, let us say the engine and transmission will equal the cost of Electric motor and motor controller. That is reasonable assumption.

    Now, the additional cost is the charger and battery and all the EV associated cost.

    At $500/KWh, we are talking about $12,500 (25KWh). Let us round it up to $14k for all EV associated additional cost.

    That would be $29K. With $7,500 federal tax credit and $2,500 CA cash incentive. You are talking about the cost of $20k for most people.

    If you knock another $1,000 off the original $15k Spark EV, you are talking about a "marketing" price of $19K.

    That is Prius C price range with spanking performance. And it is NOT far off Fiat 500 price either.

    Right on target.

  18. Compliance cars generally don't get sold in several large markets. This will be sold in the U.S., S. Korea, and China, at a minimum. Not every EV needs to sell in the tens of thousands to make an impact and help improve the learning curves in some areas. With the Volt the only EV/PHEV selling in decent volume now (I know the LEAF is doing a little better, too) and Tesla not ready for the $30k EV until 2014-15, I'd say it's good to have this regardless of the overall sales.

    Not for me at all, but my niece likes the Spark a lot. We're a supplier to it and the sales have been, as noted by John V., much higher than expected.

  19. If they let me get full use of the 400 lb-ft, I'll buy one over a Leaf.

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