By Mary Lowry
The list of Chevrolet vehicles utilizing electric power is a little longer now, thanks to the addition of the all-new 2014 Spark EV (Electric Vehicle). It joins the lineup previously consisting of eAssist versions of the Malibu and Impala, and the plug-in hybrid electric Volt.
The Chevy Volt, by the way, is the best-selling plug-in car in the U.S.
Chevrolet recently presented the 2014 Spark EV in Portland to a group of automotive media members from around the country. Spark EV designers and engineers provided details about the car, and then we got to experience it for ourselves during several fun and interesting hours driving it around town.
The Spark EV minicar runs purely on electric power. The word “purely” has double meaning here. One: Electricity is the Spark EV’s sole source of power. Two: The car runs clean, releasing zero emissions.
Spark EV was created specifically with city drivers in mind, and Portland not only fits that bill but is also in the national vanguard of urban electric-vehicle recharging infrastructure. Most noteworthy is Electric Avenue, a joint venture of Portland State University, Portland General Electric, and the City of Portland. Established in August 2011 near the PSU campus and adjacent to the city’s Sixth Avenue Transit Mall, Electric Avenue includes a long block of charging stations for electric vehicles.
Spark EV’s power source is the General Motors electric drive system with a 21-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It has a power rating of 105 kW (140 horsepower). Top speed for the car is 90 mph, and with a full charge it has a range of 82 miles. Whatever it might lack in power brutality, the Spark EV makes up for in torque: 400 lb-ft, which Chevy points out is best-in-class, and more than the Porsche 911 and Ferrari 458 Italia – and with zero emissions.
With a 120V plug-in, the maximum amount of time it takes to fully charge the Spark EV is 20 hours. With a 240V hookup, maximum time is 7 hours. When equipped with the optional SAE combo charger for DC fast charging capability, 80 percent of a total charge can be reached in 20 minutes. The DC fast charging option won’t be available until fourth-quarter 2013, and Spark EVs sold without it cannot be retrofitted.
Despite its tiny size, the Spark EV has seating for four, with 39.4 inches of headroom and 42 inches of legroom for front passengers, and 37.3 inches of headroom and 35.2 inches of legroom for rear passengers. Maximum cargo space is 23.4 cubic feet.
There are two trim levels: 1LT and 2 LT. Here’s the standard-feature list for the 1LT
- 120V onboard charger
- 240V charging capability
- Six speakers
- Fifteen-inch aluminum wheels
- Ten airbags
- Air conditioning
- Bluetooth capability
- Center stack-mounted seven-inch color touch-screen display
- Chevrolet MyLink, USB port, auxiliary input jack
- Chrome liftgate handle
- Seven-inch color Driver Information Center display
- Cruise control
- Electric parking brake
- Heated driver and front passenger cloth seats
- Power windows and door locks
- Remote keyless entry
- Remote start/passenger compartment pre-conditioning
- Steering-wheel-mounted controls
- SiriusXM satellite radio (three-month trial period)
- Four-wheel anti-lock brakes with regenerative braking
- Electronic brake-force distribution
- Brake assist
- Hill Start Assist
- Electric parking brake
- StabiliTrak stability control
- Traction control
- Three years of OnStar Directions and Connections service
The remote start feature will not be available until fourth-quarter 2013.
There are two OnStar services unique to the Spark EV: Way Point Navigation, and Plug-in Reminder and Low Temperature Alert.
Way Point Navigation uses Turn by Turn Navigation to find charging stations along a given route, and recommends when to charge, based on how long takes to reach a particular destination. Plug-in Reminder and Low Temperature Alert uses the OnStar RemoteLink app to remind drivers to plug in the car if they forget, and to send an alert during extremely low temperatures that the car needs to be plugged in.
Base pricing for the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV starts at $27,495 including a destination charge of $810. The car is eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. California also offers local tax credits and rebates of up to $2,500. A buyer who can max out the tax credits and rebates could end up paying as little as $17,495 for the car.
Chevrolet also has a low mileage lease available on the 1LT model, with payments of $199 per month for 36 months, and $999 due at lease signing, including the security deposit. However, each dealership sets its own lease prices, so costs can vary.
The Spark EV is built in South Korea and has been available since mid-June, but only at dealerships in Oregon and California because those two states lead the nation in electric-vehicle infrastructure. Aware of Washington state’s own efforts to establish EV infrastructure, I asked Cristi Landy, Director of Chevrolet Small and Electrified Vehicles, when we might see the Spark EV on sale here, but she isn’t at liberty to divulge that information at this time.