Chevrolet Spark EV All-Electric Mini Car (2015 Model Review)

Written By: EightySix

Edited By: Assen Gueorguiev

    2015 Chevrolet Spark EV - Salt lake city auto show (2015)

The 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV and Way Too Much Torque

400 foot-pounds of torque and 140 horsepower. That's all you need to know. Zero to sixty in less than eight seconds. Get one and stomp on the “gas", or whatever we'll start calling that pedal.

Okay, there's also the 119 combined MPGe and the 82 mile range. The efficiency is second only to the Scion iQ EV. The range is comparable to the Nissan Leaf. The performance is unmatched in the non-Tesla EV domain.

To protect the charge and motor, Chevy has dampened the performance of the Spark at launch. One owner removed the factory governor and now has a viral video of his Spark EV smoking the front tires all the way down the block.

But You Can't Get One

Unless you live in Oregon or California. And no, you can't buy one in Portland and drive it home to New York. They won't sell it to non-residents. So yes, it's a compliance car.

California and Oregon require car manufacturers to produce a certain number of zero emissions vehicles. Often the company will shrug their shoulders and produce something, like the limited run Toyota RAV4 primarily running with Tesla guts. In this case, Chevy produced a solidly built, very fun to drive piece of compliance.

Before you completely curse compliance, realize that it does inspire innovation. If not forced to do so, most auto companies would never even try. Necessity is the mother of invention.

A Motor and What Else?

The interior is not fancy, but it has style. The exterior color is used to accent the inside. Information is delivered to the driver through a "motorcycle inspired" electronic gauge cluster built into the steering column. A seven inch touch-screen in the center of the dashboard connects driver and passenger to Chevrolet MyLink. Its 86.3 cubic feet of passenger space exceed that of the Leaf, Fortwo, iQ or Fiat 500. The vehicle is narrow, but tall, fitting four adults with scarce elbow room but plenty of headroom.

The Spark EV contains ten airbags and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2014. The frame held its rigidity quite well during crash tests. But as with all small cars, be aware of the inevitable physics involved when a large object strikes a smaller object.

Kelley Blue Book gave it a 5 Year Cost to Own Award. Compared to a vehicle with the national average of 24 miles per gallon, Chevy predicts the average driver would save almost $9000 over five years by driving a Spark EV. A new base model starts under $27,000 before any tax credits. Of course these predictions may sharply change depending on how gas prices continue to fluctuate.

2015 Chevrolet Spark EV - Salt Lake City Auto Show (2015)

Already Being Improved

Two major updates have already been done for this vehicle. The final drive ratio has been changed from 3.17 to 3.87, increasing its city range by demanding less from the battery. The batteries have changed, also. The 21 kWh battery pack built by A123 was swapped for an LG Chem 19 kWh unit which weighs 86 pounds less. The loss of weight offsets the loss of storage. Combined with the more efficient final ratio, the range and MPGe numbers remain the same.

This is a power move for LG, which also provides batteries for the Volt and upcoming 2016 Sonic EV, which is predicted to have a 200 mile range. LG just signed a deal with Audi and is working on an agreement with Nissan.

At 240 volts, the Spark will charge up in about seven hours. Chevy offers a $500 discount for a Bosch charging station. An SAE quick charging station will get the battery to 80% in about 20 minutes.

What's Coming for 2016?

Or what's going? First of all, Chevrolet as a brand will no longer be in Europe. General Motors will only offer products under its Opel and Vauxhall badges. It has no plans to sell a Spark EV under any name. What does that mean for the United States?

The Spark EV may die the death of a compliance car. It could be too small for mainstream sale, so GM may focus on its already popular Volt and Cadillac ELR. The slightly larger Sonic EV could take the place of the Spark. Both share GM's Gamma II platform. A 200 mile electric hatchback will come around, but likely as a Sonic.

We may need to wait another year. The release is scheduled for 2017. Chevy would be better off hurrying a bit or launch their car simultaneously with the Tesla Model 3.

Will it Change the World?

It just might. A major force like General Motors getting serious with LG about electric vehicles is major news. Since killing off its own EV1 project, repossessing existing vehicles and then destroying them, GM didn't look very willing to kick gasoline. When it sued California over their zero emissions quota, its image didn't improve. Perhaps the corporation now sees that the future is electric and wants to get on board.

The most historical part of the Spark EV I see is the engine. I think: if it has more than enough power to move a subcompact, how would it run in a minivan? Consider that motor with perhaps double the LG battery connected to three rows of seats and a pair of sliding doors? Could we get one with some nice options for $40,000 or so? That doesn't sound too crazy to me.