The Chevy Spark EV, GM's first all electric car since the EV1, is an urban-oriented car built on GM's popular ultra-compact Spark platform. Many dismiss the Spark EV as just a compliance car, because it is being built only in small quantities, and is only sold in California and Oregon. However the car has impressive specifications, and early reviews suggest that GM has built a fine electric car.
As an ultra-compact car the Spark EV has seating for four people, and a small cargo area in the rear. There are plenty of circumstances where that combination makes a lot of sense, such as urban dwellers.
Where the Spark EV shines is in the powerful electric drive train. The gas powered Spark has a weak engine, but GM gave the Spark EV a 140 horsepower (105 kilowatt) electric motor that produces 400 ft-lb of torque. While this isn't Tesla Roadster territory, this is a lot of power to put in a small car, and it does have a 0-60 miles/hr time of under 8 seconds. The video reviews we've seen of the Spark EV have all raved about the speed and performance.
A full recharge is a sedate 7 hours, meaning that GM put in a 3 kilowatt on-board charger. Silly people - that's a minus in today's electric vehicle market since most of the other EV's have 6 kilowatt chargers. In a few months GM will introduce an updated model that supports the SAE Combo Charging System for a sub-1 hour fast charge. That's cool, but there's a practical issue that at the moment there's essentially zero compatible fast chargers available in the US.
The electric driving range is about 82 miles thanks to a 21 kilowatt-hour battery pack in the car, and high efficiency.
The Chevy Spark EV MSRP of $27,500 puts it at the lower end of the electric car price scale. GM is also offering the car with attractive lease terms. But at first blush, comparing that MSRP to the entry price of the gas powered Spark, $12,170, gives one bulging eyes because you could buy two of them for one Spark EV. One has to look carefully at the trim levels, account for the tax credits, and fuel cost savings, to realize that the Spark EV is quite a good buy.
First, the Spark EV comes in two trim levels, the 1LT and 2LT. The equivalent gas powered Spark trim levels cost $14,995 for the 1LT and $16,385 for the 2LT. Second, the Spark EV qualifies for $7,500 federal tax credits and additional credits in California or Oregon. With an effective MSRP of $20,000 (or a bit less) the price premium drops to $5000. Finally, the EPA claims that the Spark EV will save $9,000 in fuel costs over 5 years, meaning that over a typical ownership period the Spark EV will completely pay for its price premium.
Whether the Spark EV a good buy depends on how much you need cargo capacity or the ability to carry five people. The Nissan Leaf has a slightly higher price, similar tax credits and similar potential for fuel cost savings. The fast charging port on the Leaf is more useful, because there are many more CHAdeMO stations in the US than there are ones supporting the Combo Charging System.