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2014 Chevrolet Spark EV: First Drive Report

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Aspire, Sprint, Swift, and Esteem: They’re among the most ironically inappropriate car names.

But in its new EV guise, the Chevy Spark has the perfect name, on many levels. This car certainly has more than a spark of personality; it's all-electric (forget about those spark plugs); and, perhaps most importantly, as GM's first battery-electric car since the 1990s-era EV1, it's a Spark of something greater.

Whether you look to Lenin, Mao, or Ayn Rand, the Spark is a symbol of revolution and motivation—and we'd like to think that GM considered that...but maybe we're projecting.

The Spark's potential does project well beyond the test-drive numbers—the 400 pound-feet torque (more than a Porsche 911 or Ferrari 458 Italia!) and 7.6-second 0-60 figures that GM spokespeople are especially eager to share.

The broader base of appeal for the Spark EV is, perhaps, just the fact that it's one of the first all-electric cars that can fit four and is well below the cost of the average new car today, considering federal tax credits and state rebates. With an EPA rated range of 82 miles on a full charge—well within the daily-driving needs of the vast majority of Americans—it makes a no-brainer second car, especially for anyone living near established charging infrastructure.

Go gasoline-free, on a (relatively) low budget

That’s exactly the case in Portland, Oregon, where we spend a day this week driving the new 2014 Spark EV. We think that it's not just one of the best-driving electric cars yet, but one of the most affordable ways yet to make your daily driving completely gasoline-free.

On the outside, the appearance of the Spark EV is quite like the gasoline-engine Spark, but just different enough to be able to pick the EV out at close range. A grille-blanking panel at the front looks a lot like the one used in the Chevrolet Volt, while the fuel door has been completely removed from the rear fender and a charging door and port have been added to the front left fender. In addition to that there are a host of additional small aerodynamic improvements (like a larger hatchback spoiler, active grille shutters, side body sill extensions, underbody panels, and a rear valence panel stamped with ‘EV’.The color palette is also different—including a soft, almost baby-blue hue, Blue Ray, for our test car. Oh, and unlike the Volt, the Spark does not scrape its front end on every driveway, ramp, and speed bump.


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Comments (38)
  1. Great writing. Thanks for the excellent report.
     
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  2. John, in general I agree, but I can think of several revolutions that are flattering; rather than the unflattering examples used in the article.
     
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  3. Yeah, OK the "Lenin, Mao, or Ayn Rand" references may have been a bit off the mark. But I appreciate the author's attempt to make it into a bit more of a "story" rather than a straight up test drive.
    I like how the author conveys the driving experience, both good and bad, in a clear manner.
     
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  4. I'm disappointed with the two drive mode choices. They (apparently) are trying to make it like any other car, instead of trying to make it possible to maximize the range. An Eco mode lowering the accelerator response and with free-wheel coasting *like the Fit EV* would be great.

    I think that all the regenerative braking should be integrated into the *brake* pedal; or a variable regen regen paddle control behind the steering wheel.

    How was the backseat? How tall a person can sit in any of the seats in the Spark EV? Are the seats heated? How does the defroster work? Does it have a dedicated RR and/or charge display?

    Neil
     
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  5. Sounds like you need to check one out yourself. If it's as good as it appears to be - kick-ass performance combined with superior driving dynamics - it's going to be a steal of a deal at its price.
     
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  6. Neil, if the light regen in Drive Mode is anything like the Volt then there is no need for freewheeling or EcoMode. The Volt coasts VERY well without those tricks. In fact, the Volt coasts better than the Prius in a "glide". Hypermilers can choose to put the car in "neutral" if they want less drag.
     
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  7. True. I can drive across Baltimore in my Volt on only one mile of indicated range using Low range and taking advantage of the aggressive regen to keep the battery topped off, and no hypermiling tricks. Last night, I left my house in Pikesville and drove to Fells Point in downtown, including a stretch of 65 mph highway, all in Low range and used an indicated 2 miles of range to do so. Look at a map and you can see that it's about 8+ miles of driving, both in town and on the highway, Typical ICE hypermiling tricks are not needed.
     
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  8. How was the back seat? Page 2, last paragraph. Alas, it only measures the back seat for comfort of tall people, rather than what we're all really wondering about: is it good for making babies?
     
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  9. Kudo's GM! I would have preferred a ground-up EV, not an ICE conversion. But congrats for an affordable vehicle with decent performance.
     
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  10. Very thorough report. Do you know when Spark EV sales will expand into other states?
     
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  11. I'd like to know, too, as I'd like to replace my MINI with one.
     
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  12. Good write up, but you didn't even mention the fact that the Spark EV has a 3.3kW charger from the Volt, which would take 6 or 7 hours to charge at a normal J1772 AC public charging spot. Almost all the competition has double speed 6.6kW or faster charging available.

    As to the comments about DC quick charging, there are effectively ZERO public charging locations, and not too many planned. In the two markets where the Spark is sold today, Oregon and California, there are EXACTLY zero. The #1 EV volume sales leader, with about 70,000 worldwide, the Nissan LEAF, has almost 3,000 places to charge worldwide, with over 200 in the USA, virtually all of which are in California, Oregon and Washington, and soon to be British Columbia, Canada.
     
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  13. Not to be or sound idealistic, but maybe GM has plans to do something along the lines of what Nissan is doing with QC, such as installing them in dealerships. However, honestly, I doubt it and I don't quite understand not having a 6.6 kw charger. Other than that the car looks very compelling.
    Lou
     
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  14. Doesn't the base model Leaf which Nissan promotes in all their ads have only a 3.3kW charger?

    If Tesla can build a Supercharger network, it shouldn't take long to build a DC quick charging network, especially if more EVs have batteries designed to allow multiple quick charging like the Spark EV has. I don't think the Leaf has that type of battery.
     
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  15. The LEAF S currently only has a 3.3kW charger, but that is going to change for 2014:

    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1085587_2014-nissan-leaf-minor-changes-for-nissans-electric-car
     
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  16. The 6.6kW charger is available on all 2013 Leafs, only on the cheapest trim it is an option instead of being included standard.

    Much more useful IMHO is the quick-charge port -- and the availability of QC stations obviously (which is going to be a problem for GM); 6.6kW is overkill for overnight fill-ups, but remains just too painfully slow to get more miles mid-trip.

    @Tony: Plugshare.com's tally for QC locations in the US:
    CHAdeMO: ~300 (and indeed half on the west coast alone)
    Supercharger: 15
    CCS: er, what's that??

    Are any CCS-compatible QC even UL-listed yet?
     
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  17. Quick charger help with situation in a pinch, but it doesn't make Leaf a "practical" long range car...

    Charging it for 45 minutes for every 1 hr of hwy driving isn't exactly practical...
     
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  18. Indeed, 3.3kW charger is disappointing!!

    This car (and all EVs whether B or ER) should have at least 6.6kW charging, and 13.2kW would be even better!
     
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  19. There are more comments in this thread
  20. "4.4 miles per kWh"

    That is pretty impressive. I guess it does reflect its EPA rating then...
     
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  21. I guess the best performing EV for under $45k crown has just been switched from the Volt to Spark EV.

    Now, can we have a plugin Equinox?
     
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  22. The article says that the Spark is more tossable than the Fit EV? How so?
     
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  23. It is lighter and shorter. Also, more powerful and more instant torque...
     
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  24. Now that everyone knows (or should know) that EVs offer little or no advantage in term of emissions when saddled with today's primitive , expensive, and emission-intensive lithium batteries, it's time to stop the govt welfare (state and Federal) that's taking money out of the pockets of those who need it to survive and giving it to anal upper income car buyers to use for buying what amounts to a symbol, and little else. And it's totally illogical for these EV owners to claim their EVs to be economically advantageous and then accept over $10,000 in subsidies to buy them.
     
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  25. @Kent: You're back! More unsupported assertions without backup! Hurray! [chuckle]

    As you know perfectly well by now--but for the benefit of those who may not have seen your earlier comments--studies exist to refute your claims. We've written about several of them here.

    Just a single example, one of recent and most popular rebuttals:
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1084440_does-the-tesla-model-s-electric-car-pollute-more-than-an-suv

    Please feel free to submit similar analyses, with citations, that come to different conclusions. Otherwise, you're just ranting and spewing (and have been on this site for a number of years now).

    Have a nice day.
     
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  26. Seconded. A more recent, and seemingly very meticulous assessment:
    http://green.autoblog.com/2013/07/12/renault-study-proves-again-evs-are-cleaner-than-gas-or-oil-bur/
     
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  27. @Just O: Thanks for the second. Note, however, that the Renault study applies only to France, which gets more than half its electricity from nuclear power--making it something of a special case.

    Our coverage of that report:
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1085559_renault-study-shows-electric-cars-far-greener-than-gasoline--in-france
     
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  28. Confirmation Bias: the tendency to ignore any evidence that contradicts one's  current beliefs while accepting only the evidence that supports it.

    For example, reading up on electric v. ICE cars for years and ignoring the majority of independent studies and analyses showing the clear environmental and performance benefits of BEVs while accepting the minority of oil/OEM funded studies/analyses that strain to show the opposite.
     
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  29. It seems like it is a very good all electric car from GM. I like that it has a minimum of an 82 mile driving range however more driving range is always better and I would like to see at least a 120 mile range since it is very easy to drive an hour each way. I believe it will make a nice second car in a household with a fuel efficient hybrid or gasoline car for a long trip backup. Tesla is the only maker of long range BEV's capable of being a primary vehicle. Tesla's 85KWhr Model S is desirable since it is the only BEV that can be used as a primary car due to it's 265 mile EPA MPGe rating and Tesla's plans to add superchargers across the USA will mean that it should be capable of interstate travel once the supercharging network is in place.
     
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  30. This is pretty exciting news for EV fans. I am assuming an MSRP of $27,500, minus the fed tax credit of $7,500 brings the price in most states without additional incentives to $20k? DAYUM! Now if it only holds up as well as the Volt does.....GM has a winner!
     
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  31. I checked one out yesterday. The front seat has plenty of room for me at 6'3" but I couldn't fit in the back seat. I had to duck my head or lean it to the side to sit upright and even then my head was pressing against the headliner. :)
     
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  32. Did you drive it?

    The seating area looks small from even outside. If you are 6'3", don't even bother with 500e or even the Honda eFit's backseat either...
     
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  33. I didn't. I was at the dealer charging my battery with their service charger. I felt like a mooch as it was so I didn't want to waste a saleperson's time. Besides, I hated knowing it would smoke my Volt at a stoplight race. So I walked away feeling smug that my backseat and cargo area is larger. LOL
     
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  34. 82 miles on a single charge? What are you doing GM? Tesla's Model S can almost get 300 and can charge more than twice as fast. When they come out with their economy class version, you will be left in the dust. Either GM just doesn't have the battery technology, or is purposely releasing sub-standard EV's in order to "upgrade" them every year to fulfill their planned-obsolescence business model. This car is pathetic. Better wait a couple years if you want a decent EV from a major auto manufacturer who it seems are being dragged kicking and screaming into the EV market. They're going to try to squeeze the last bit of profit from gasoline engines that they can.
     
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  35. And Tesla's Model S costs how much more than teh Spark? Studies have shown that most people drive less than 40 miles a day, which means that an 80+ mile EV will actually work for many millions of today's drivers, and GM (nor anyone) can build enough to satisfy even that need, much less the minority that needs to travel 200-300 miles on a regular basis.
     
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  36. Biggest selling point is the A123 Systems Lifepo battery with 3000 recharge cycles and low loss of capacity for every year of use compared to other EV batteries 2-3% loss and safety: no overheating or fires.
     
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  37. Just sounds like GM is once again going into this half hearted. I feel bad for the engineers that worked hard on the design only to be able to share it with two states. Sounds like the EV-1 project all over again. Wake up GM and get with the program. Tesla has you beat (you will never catch up) , Nissan is way ahead of you. The volt could have been a great car but you limited the electric only range and just built another hybrid... so sad! GM has the engineering talent, let's see you cut them loose!
     
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  38. The Volt is a great car. Any car "could have been better". I serves all my needs and the Tesla will not do my occasional long range trips and costs three times as much . Last month results 147 mpg, fell from 250 the prior month. Out drags my 1954 Olds 88 Rocket which was hot for its time. Runs 100 mph which will get you a free room at the county jail. Has the same extras as my LS430 plus some. I wish it had 80 eMiles but it is on EV 92% now.
     
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