Rick and Alex Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CAEnlarge Photo
So how did Rick and Christine Prell and their two teenage sons become the first family in the U.S. to buy a 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV?
Turns out it was at least partly luck.
The family needed a third car for Alex, their 16-year-old son who is about to turn 17, to drive to school.
Alex, a car enthusiastic, had a number of ideas for the car he wanted--all of them a little more "fast and cool" than seemed warranted, said his father, mildly.
"I encouraged him to look at a car that would be more reasonable on price--and for the environment," he said.
Rick had long wondered about plug-in electric cars, and he'd even looked at a Chevy Volt a couple of years ago.
Turning his attention to electric cars, Alex did the research and decided that the 2013 Honda Fit EV would be just the ticket.
Except that the family couldn't find one to lease at any dealers they contacted or visited, to Alex's great disappointment.
What about the Fiat 500e? "Just a little too cute," came the 16-year-old's verdict.
The Prells had known that an electric version of the Chevy Spark minicar was on the way, but weren't sure quite when southern California dealers would have them.
This past Wednesday, on a whim, Rick Prell swung by Keye Chevrolet in Van Nuys, California--and saw a single Spark EV that had just been delivered.
"It was reasonable, it was affordable, it would fit in our driveway," he said. Behind the wheel, "it was better than I ever thought it could be."
Rick, Alex, David & Christine Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CAEnlarge Photo
"I didn't know a car would be available that day, and I didn't know I would buy one," Rick said, "but I knew it was the perfect car there and then."
So he signed the papers that day, and took his new car--the first Spark EV delivered in the U.S.--home to Studio City that same evening.
The Prells ended up leasing their Spark EV, because low lease rates that incorporated the Federal income-tax credit made more sense for the family finances.
Rick also chose to lease because, as he said, "I still have some concern over changes to batteries and other technologies over the next three, four, or five years," and a lease lets him upgrade to a newer plug-in car at the end of the three-year lease.
The total monthly cost is $225, since the Prells' Spark EV is the 2LT model with leatherette heated front seats with contrast stitching and a leather-wrapped steering wheel (although not the DC Fast Charger option, which isn't yet available).
The lower-line 1LT Spark EV is offered at a cost of $199 a month.
Because the decision was so quick, the Prells don't yet have a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station installed at their house.
For the moment, they're charging the electric Spark via the 110-Volt cable that comes with the car, plugged into a socket at the end of their driveway.
But they've already scheduled an appointment for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to come inspect their house--a necessary step to get a reimbursement for up to $2,000 in costs for the charging station and installation.
Alex, Rick, David & Christine Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CAEnlarge Photo
Alex has already paired his smartphone with the car and the family is using various phone apps to show the location of public charging stations.
Meanwhile, the car had 45 miles when the Prells took possession Wednesday evening.
Yesterday, they collectively put 40 miles on it, with Rick noting that Alex checked the accumulated miles to see how many his dad had added that day.
The best part for the newly mobile high-schooler in his battery-electric car may be that he doesn't have to pay to fuel it.
Rick and Christine had told Alex they'd pay for the car each month, but he would have to put gasoline in it.
Are they charging him instead for the extra electricity used to recharge the battery each night?
"Nah," Rick laughed. "He'll have to set the table or something but, no, we're not charging him for the electricity."