2014 Chevy Spark EV Preview

2014 Chevy Spark EV

Does the world need another small electric car?  Apparently GM thinks so as coming in late Summer of 2013 to a few states and Canada is the all new Chevy Spark EV.  Based on the platform of the gas powered Spark released last year, the Spark EV is General Motors first true electric vehicle.

The gasoline powered Spark is a decent little car with a lot of standard features at a very low price.  The Spark EV will be somewhat better equipped but a lot more expensive.  The predicted starting price of the Spark EV, after the Federal Tax Credit of $7,500, is expected to be just under $25,000… a lot of money for a very small car.  A well equipped gas powered Spark can be had for less than $15,000.

If you haven’t seen the gasoline powered Spark up close it’s hard to grasp just how small the Spark really is.  Coming in at just over 144 inches the Spark is 2” shorter than a MINI Cooper.  We’re talking small.  To Chevy’s credit, the Spark, because of it’s height, has more passenger room than a Cooper and almost double the cargo space.

So the question is, does the Spark EV make sense from a purchase standpoint?  The Spark is almost exactly the same size as the poorly selling Mitsubishi i-MIEV but it is more expensive.  Even worse, the Spark EV is much smaller than the lower priced, but larger Nissan Leaf.  So what is the incentive to buy it?  GM may be wondering that very thing because, at least for 2013, the Spark EV is only going to be available in limited numbers in a few states (California and Oregon) and only at a few dealerships.  GM says the Spark will be available in parts of Canada, Europe and Korea (where the Spark is manufactured) and eventually throughout the United States, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

One advantage the Spark EV may have – at least when compared to other hybrids, EVs and fuel efficient cars – is it might be a bit of a pocket rocket.  Thanks to its 130 horsepower electric motor with 400 ft.- lbs of torque the Spark EV should be able to get you where you are going in a hurry.  The best guess is zero to 60 in under 8 seconds.  Still, the NIssan Leaf is far from slow.  If the Spark really is faster than the Leaf, it won’t be by much.

EPA driving range estimates are not yet available for the Spark EV, but GM claims the Spark will be a segment leader.  As small and light as the Spark EV is, I wouldn’t be surprised. From what I’ve read the best guess is about 60-70 real world miles per charge; the EPA number will undoubtedly be much higher.  At 60-70 miles per charge it might do slightly better than the Nissan Leaf, but not enough to matter in my opinion.

So, is the world ready for the Chevy Spark EV?  I think not.  Other than its ability to get into very small parking spaces I just don’t see a lot going for it, although if Chevy wants to fly me to California, first class of course, to test drive one…  But for now, the Nissan Leaf is the best value amongst true electric cars.  For 2013 the Leaf is cheaper than other EVs, is reliable, relatively quick, can seat 5 and still have room left over for their luggage.

Quick Reference Table – Chevy Spark EV versus a Nissan Leaf

Chevy Spark EV
Nissan Leaf
Base Price, after federal tax credit.
$24,??? $21,300
Horsepower 130 107
Torque (lb.-ft.) 400 187
Overall Length (in.) 144.7 175.0
Overall Width (in.) 62.9 69.7
Overall Height (in) 61.0 61.0
Cargo volume (rear seats up) (cu. ft.) 11.4 24.0
Headroom (in.) 39.4 41.2
Front legroom (in.) 42.0 41.2
Airbags 10 6

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