We were recently given the opportunity by GM to go up to Portland to check out their latest electric vehicle, The Spark EV. This car is intended to squarely attack the lower end of the electric market which is pretty much wide open. This car is GM's first fully electric vehicle since the EV1 concept
from the 90's. Some of the people responsible for that project also had their hand in the Spark EV.
The Spark EV is a pretty small car as you can tell, and is classified under the EPA vehicle class as a mini-car. The Spark EV is a modified version of Chevy's Spark mini-car which runs on conventional gasoline and has been modified, for the better, to be an electric car. The way that GM has done that is by ripping out the entire gasoline powertrain and replacing it with an electric one capable of delivering a peak output of about 100 kW or an equivalent of 136 HP. While these numbers are not necessarily stellar for any vehicle, for such a small car it is more than ample power to get the car going. Furthermore, Chevy has decided that they will give the Spark EV 400 lb.-ft of torque which means that this thing goes like no other.
While this car is without a doubt quick on paper, it isn't necessarily fast since it has a top speed of 90 mph, a true city car. All of this is powered by a 21 kWh battery pack which is designed to give an EPA electric-only range of 82 miles per charge. The car's MPGe rating is 119 MPGe as it gets 128 MPGe in the city and 109 MPGe on the highway. The overall charge time on a 240v charger is about 7 hours, which is pretty much enough to let it charge while you sleep if you were to completely drain the vehicle, which nobody does.
I got an opportunity to first sit in the back of the vehicle, as there were two members of the press per vehicle, and then sit in the driver's seat. I can safely say that the Spark EV is one spunky little car and I seriously enjoyed driving it. More and more people are looking for economical city cars and struggling to find one that's both small, economical, and practical. From my experience, I wasn't necessarily wowed by the interior of the vehicle nor the infotainment system, however, I spent only a few hours with the interior of the vehicle and will leave my final impressions for an actual review.
The real thing that got me about my short time with the Spark EV was that the car is incredibly quick and has that passing ability that most cars lack as a result of not having enough torque. I got a chance to drive the vehicle on my own for a bit and I found that parking it in tight spaces was incredibly easy and it didn't feel any different than any other mini-car I've driven. I did drive the Spark EV very close to the end of its range and even then I didn't feel any fear that the car would all of a sudden die on me, in fact, I drove it pretty damn hard.
One of the real important aspects about this car is that it is GM's foray into the fully EV market, which means that we are going to see more vehicles like the SparkEV coming out soon. What interests me the most, though, is GM's aspirations to install DC quick chargers around the major cities where the Spark EV (and subsequent vehicles) are sold. With the Spark EV's SAE combo charger, the car will be capable of getting an 80% charge in about 20 minutes, which is absolutely fantastic when you consider some other vehicles will take an hour or more to accomplish the same. However, in order to enable such a feature, GM will charge you about $700 when you buy the vehicle to have the appropriate hardware and software for the DC quick charge. To me, the DC quick charge is a very promising option because it enables a quick and easy solution to charging. That option won't be available in time for the first few months of the vehicle's availability, however, it will be available later this year. So, if that's a factor for you, you might want to wait.
When you take all of this into account, it seems hard to believe that this car is going for $26,685 before any state or federal rebates. After all of those are said and done, most people can expect to pay under $19,999 for the vehicle with some paying significantly less. GM is also leasing this vehicle to approved lesees for $199 a month which I believe is a more attractive offer for people not entirely sold on the longevity of electric vehicles and their battery packs.
I look forward to doing a full review of the SparkEV shortly pointing out all of the aspects of the vehicle and how it addresses the needs of the price and class segments.
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