First 2014 Chevy Spark EV Sold: Why We Chose This Electric Car

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Rick and Alex Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CA

Rick and Alex Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CA

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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, CA

Rick, Alex, David & Christine Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CA

Enlarge 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, CA

Alex, Rick, David & Christine Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CA

Enlarge 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."


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Comments (69)
  1. Perfect little car for a high school kid and the parents don't have to worry that their kids have gone too far from home. :)

  2. When my son is at college I will be leasing one for him in a year. Perfect idea as the college has a lot of EVSEs and I donated to the school directly to purchase more of them.

  3. It must be a Chevrolet, if you approve of it, apparently all the bad things you have said abut leaf would not apply to it, since it is a"perfect little car"

  4. @Pawan Kumar,

    Well, Let us look at it:

    Leaf: Slow. SparkEV is the fastest BEV under $30k
    Leaf's battery: NO liquid cooling;
    Spark EV's battery: has Liquid cooling:
    Leaf's battery warranty is shorter than Spark EV's warranty.

    The base price are the same. The high end models Leaf comes with fast charging and SparkEV won't have that until later but high end Leaf is far more expensive.

    Those are facts, aren't they?

    Are you worried about facts?

  5. The Leaf is slow??? Tell that to all the cars I leave behind at the stop light! LOL. Slow, really? Bring it. Also lets see how safe the Spark will be in it's crash ratings. Leaf got top marks and also comfortably fits 5 passengers for commuting. Please show all the facts.

  6. compared to the spark, the leaf is slow. compared to most small ICE cars on the road the Leaf is quick (not fast: quick. there's a difference)

  7. Spark is equipped for SAE J1772/DC fast charge combo. just waiting on deployment of the chargers.

  8. Unless theres came with a Level 3 chademo quick charge port.

  9. EDIT: I mean J1772 combo connector/Jacks that offers high speed charging or Level 2 charging via 1 cord.

  10. It is NOT offered yet until later this year.

  11. That was quick.

  12. Hey its Alex from the article and me and my family are the owners of this first Chevy Spark EV sold at the Van Nuys Keyes Chevrolet and I set up a blog specifically to give information on my experiences with the car as I am the only person in the country with one as of now. I know there is little known about them and I am here with information to help. Check it out at

  13. You're going to love the 240v charger in your garage. It's going to add even more daily range to your current 90 miles/charge.

  14. Would it be possible for you to let us know the specifics of the battery warranty regarding capacity? For example, I believe the Volt has a warranty stating that it will have at least 70% of the original capacity for 10 years.

  15. I do know the battery is guaranteed for the lease term at least. Not sure about the warranty on the purchase.

  16. Chevy site has it. Google helped me find it quickly.

  17. I must be missing something. I had already seen terms like the one that I just found by following the link you gave me. The terms that I found had from the link you provided were:
    And the battery is backed by an 8-year/100,000-mile limited warranty. (Whichever comes first. See dealer for limited warranty details.)

    Chevrolet does not sell the Spark EV where I live. I have not been to the dealer to ask whether or not they have warranty terms for the Spark EV.

    On the Chevrolet we site, there are additional terms for the Volt regarding capacity, but they only seem to cover the Volt (The Voltec Warranty).

    If you have found the details for the Spark EV, please provide a link or specific details (like the ones for the Volt warranty).


  18. Since the Spark uses A123 nanophosphate cells I'd expect the pack to last the life of the vehicle, and beyond.

  19. Great to see you being so interested in the ev technology. Check out as well which is a good community forum for volts and soon spark EVs.

  20. There are more comments in this thread
  21. Comment disabled by moderators.

  22. Congrats, Alex! It's a pretty cool car. A much cooler than most of us had as a first car. :)

  23. The one thing that caught my attention was the taking a lease with some concern about changes in batteries and EV technology. I wouldn't worry about coming changes, cars change all the time, I bought my car in 2010 the next year automatic stop/start was added so only first year cars didn't have it. Now I'm not going to get rid of my car just to upgrade features, and the same should go for the Spark EV. Even if GM upgrades the Spark in a year or two that doesn't mean that you need to run out and get the newest version especially if nothing is wrong with the old one.

  24. Over this past year, I've come to this same realization on my Volt. Even if the next gen Volt had a 500 mile range it would add minimal value to me. Because I plug-in my Volt at work, I seldom use petrol, even running errands after work. In fact on weekends I frequently log over 100 miles/day. Before I'm ready for my next errand I've recharged enough to cover it on electricity. So because of my high satisfaction, I'm going to go ahead and buy my Volt when the lease is up.

  25. Yes. People waiting for some level of technology to come out are missing out on what is here today.

  26. The three above posts make me feel better about our decision to buy instead of lease. I feel leasing a depreciating asset like a car is financial insanity, worse than even a dreaded loan. Yet with all the rapid changes, my habit of keeping a car for 10-20 years may not pay off with our beloved Volt.

  27. Your Volt will be fine, keep it as long as you like. Keeping up with near constant automotive upgrades will just end up costing you a tone of money. Upgrade when the time is right, never trade to gain new features.

  28. It seems to me like it would support leasing vs. buying. That way you can take advantage of upgrades that come out in a few years, without having to worry about selling the depreciating asset. Now if you are going to keep a car for 10 years regardless of technological advances, then I understand buying. However, if you do believe improvements are forthcoming then get a lease and a few years you can take advatage of the improvements.

  29. I disagree. It's easy to see keeping the Volt 15+ years. Just think about what batteries will be like 10-15 years from now if you choose to refresh it. What other update would you need? I own several high mile cars (including '91 Stealth, '97 Taurus, and '98 Wrangler) and the big ticket item that seems to go out first is the head gasket. The Volt ICE will have so few hours on it 20 years from now it will still be a young engine.

  30. Hey Alex! Congrats from a Chevy Volt leasee. One thing I had to do was setup an excel spreadsheet to keep up with the mileage. My wife drives ALOT and we live in Texas where everything is a long drive. You may not have that problem in Calif. Keep in mind you are alloted 12000 miles per year which works out to average about 32.8 miles per day. If you go over that there is a charge per mile.
    I think you did well on the lease. Good luck in the future!

  31. Nice car. My first car was a 9 year old then 1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and yours is a much nicer first car. I am eventually going to get a new Tesla 3 Gen car once they become available by 2016 or so. The Spark look like a nice car and has an EPA rated 82 mile range which is fairly good amount and better than some other cars such as the Leaf which is EPA rated at just 75 miles. Be a safe driver and enjoy your new car.

  32. Another tip:

    Spark EV got a lot of power and it is fast. So, you easily go faster than you realize. Don't get a speeding ticket... Especially toward the end of Month. CHP has quotas to fill and don't give them an excuse.

  33. Beware of the silence of the EV!! You'll be going 80 thinking you are going 40!!

  34. Leasing is the best way to go with an EV. They are changing and some pricing are dropping so don't get stuck with last years EV.

  35. I hope we get these in the Arizona area. It sounds like a great design and good range. Not a Tesla but a good EV at a reasonable price. Makes up for the EV1 that was not as roomy and didn't have advanced batteries for long life!

  36. Sorry Chevy will not sell these in Arizona because it is a California/Oregon Compliance car only. Tesla is being sued or prevented from building Tesla stores now in some states by NADA and some of the laws on the books which are in place to prevent manufactures from selling their automobiles directly to buyers.

  37. We are in the same boat. Did the kid like the performance of the car?

  38. I am very surprised to hear that the first Spark was available to anyone who walked in that day. I would have thought that there would have been deposits made for one in advance, and a waiting list. I tried to put down a deposit last month and was denied, because I'm not from CA or OR.

  39. I was also told that Chevy gave their dealers instructions not to ship the cars out of state.

  40. @Mike: That's correct. We asked Chevrolet about that issue, and got back the following statement:

    "We have focused our resources on dealer training, technical service and parts support in California and Oregon. Combined with heavy marketing resources, this will ensure a high quality customer experience. The Spark EV participating dealers have agreed to sell and register the Spark EV only in CA or OR. Spark EV service outside CA and OR will be very limited. Again, these parameters are in place to make sure we deliver a high quality customer experience."

    Which translates to: Nope, dealers may not sell them out of state. Period.

  41. @John: It shows a pretty poor commitment to BEV's by the traditional automakers. "Again, these parameters are in place to make sure we deliver a high quality customer experience."
    That is why I hope Tesla knocks the socks off the traditional gasoline car makers when they release the Gen III in 2016 with an expected 200 miles of driving range. I am so sick of the seemingly traditional automaker agreed upon 75 mile range limited EV's that are often weird looking. I am also not impressed by leaves that sprout on your dashboard when driving efficiently or the buy it because its good for the planet advertising stuff. You have to admit that Tesla is the only EV manufacture that is building EV's that are good enough to replace your gasoline car.

  42. May it be due to the limited speed that the electric motors and batteries could be made by GM and B456 and the issues A123 had last year?

    A national rollout would be nice but CA is in hurry up mode to get EVs while many other states are hating on them. See VA and NC for more details...

  43. They really need to test one in the Phoenix heat. I'd be glad to do that for them after leasing or buying one. We can buy the LEAF and Focus electrics or a Tesla here in Phoenix. The LEAF even has a new battery just for very hot areas. No cooling so it doesn't use as much energy as the liquid cooled EVs. I can't wait to see how it does and what else they are coming up with.

  44. Early in the article it was stated they bought the car, then later they changed their story and said it was a lease. Chevy has no intention of mass producing this car for sale, it is only a compliance car that they are forced to build to satisfy California zero emission car requirements.
    GM will lose money on every Spark made, Remember the GM EV1 from the 90's they never sold any of those cars either, instead after the lease was up they took back all the EV1's and put them in a car crusher.

  45. @Gene: Unlike the EV1, the Spark EV is available for lease OR for sale. The Prells chose to lease it for the reasons stated in the article, but they could also have bought it outright.

  46. @John Voelcker- John, I haven't seen any postings from Alex since his last posting was removed. What is the story behind that?

  47. @Ralph: I deleted a handful of duplicate messages from Alex, at his request. Not sure otherwise.

  48. Gene, are you serious? a) it isn't a compliance car b) it is being offered for sale not just leasing and c) GM has already outlined plans to offer it eventually to other parts of the country other than California (starting with Oregon) Give your head a shake...

  49. @WopOntour: I'd argue whether it's TBD whether the Spark EV is a compliance car or not.
    Both the RAV4 EV and 500e are compliance cars, but they're both for sale--not just lease. The Ford Focus Electric is available throughout the country, but Ford has worked so hard to tell the world it won't sell and has no one wanting it that it's effectively a compliance car.
    When I see GM marketing the car nationally, working aggressively to sell it outside the CARB states, and treating it as part of the company's full production lineup as it does the Volt--then I'll conclude it's not a compliance car.
    Until then, in my mind, the jury's out. My 2 cents.

  50. the Honda FIT is also a compliance car. They leased/ sold 1100 and that's it. No others have been produced.
    In Arizona we can get the FORD Focus and with liquid cooling mine has been pretty impressive so far.Another year or 2 and I'll see if it makes a big difference having liquid cooling. Our friends with Tesla's have done exceptional with their liquid cooling on the batteries. Only 1-2% loss a year of capacity.

  51. Living in Europe I cannot believe that kids of this age get their own car going to college..... The fact that it is an EV is nice, and perhaps a first sign of the attitude change that this world would need!? "Less is more" would perhaps over time reach the US? Fred Hagendoorn The Netherlands

  52. What is there "green" in having three cars for one family?

  53. The "green" is in the fact that the United States does not have a public transportation network developed as well as elsewhere in the world; here, everyone literally needs their own vehicle in order to be able to travel any reasonable distance.

  54. United States is also much larger than all nations in the world except for 2 (Russia and Canada).

    When you have that much population spread out in a much larger area, the public transit is much less effective.

  55. Very true. I visited a fried in Nagasaki Japan and it is real easy to get around with the cheap 100 yen (about 1 dollar) electric tramway that go all over the whole city.

  56. @Annatar: Well put!

  57. The Fiat 500e is a 2 door and the rear seat is barely big enough for 8 year old kids. Not even close to the 4 door Spark EV.

    I am very curious about the legroom and headroom in the Spark EV - does it fit tall/large people in the rear seat? What about really tall people (say 6'-6") in the front?

    The i MiEV has an excellent front seat for really tall people (possibly one of the roomiest front seats on the market?), but the back seat is not good for folks over 6' tall.


  58. As far as the greenest possible transportation for teenagers (or anyone for that matter), that also happens to be incredibly inexpensive, I would suggest the Elf from Organic Transit:

    The Elf is for one person, and is a covered velomobile with electric assist that has ~30 miles range, lights, horn, turn signals, a small solar array, and carries up to 350 pounds. No insurance or license are needed, and it costs $4K.


  59. @Neil: I rather doubt that any teenager I've ever met would be willing to drive something like that. I should also point out that it's a low-speed neighborhood electric vehicle, which means that local laws for its use and legality vary wildly, and it has essentially none of the safety equipment or crash structures that real cars do.

    For Alex's 30-mile round-trip commute to high school, I'm betting his parents want him in a real car.

  60. As someone who was a geek before being a geek became fashionable, I suspect that the Elf may not have helped my social stature at school, nor improved my image with the fairer sex.

    Much as I like the idea of small, lightweight electric vehicles, teenagers have plenty enough issues without the associated ridicule of deliberately choosing a vehicle like that. I'm sure Alex is more than happy with his Spark EV in comparison...

  61. I'm with Neil; there are more efficient and cheaper ways to get around (a bicycle?) for 16 year-olds. The high costs of EVs puts them out of reach for poor, even some middle class, people; most can only dream about giving one to their child. It may make us feel good, but we're deluding ourselves into thinking this helps the environment. We can't buy and consume ourselves into sustainability. We must buy fewer things and use less energy if we're serious about protecting the environment. Like Fred from the Netherlands says, more is less: more bike lanes, more public transportation, and more taxes on personal vehicles (the fuel and the vehicles themselves) to encourage the changes that will lessen our impact.

  62. @Dan: I'm not sure where you live, or where @Neil lives, but LA has very little practical public transport, few bike lanes, it's very low-density dispersed housing for the most part.

    Suggesting that Alex cycle 15 miles to school and 15 miles back amidst dense LA traffic is simply ludicrous given where he lives. If you've not visited LA sometime, you should.

    I'm sympathetic to the desire for non-car means of transport, but the U.S. has now spent 60 years building suburbs where that's virtually impossible. That's a fact of life here, regrettably.

  63. Kind of a dead thread ... but, I grew up in LA riding bikes all over the place. Wonderful weather all the time! Yes, I can understand the fear of being out there on a bike, but to call it "ludicrous" is an overstatement. Hard, unusual, green, and lean might be more apt terms. I'm sure, however, I'm the minority who thinks this way and you, dear typical American, simply accepts the world as it is and can't/don't question why can't things be different?

  64. Yay! An upperclass family purchased a monstrously expensive first car for their spoiled child! "He'll have to set the table..." Do I smell USC or some other miscreant liberal arts college in this child's future?

  65. @Salomé Ardillo: Please keep it polite. There's no need to insult the people profiled in our articles.

  66. What does miscreant mean? Though I am not affiliated with it, USC is a general research university, not a liberal arts college, though I'm not sure why that would even be an issue that would melt someone's sweat socks.

    Considering so many kids in Alex situation could and would be handed down a 10 year old escalade or pilot that no one else in the family wants to drive any more, this can easily be viewed as a step in the right direction.

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