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Car Tech Video: 2014 Chevy Spark EV packs a punch

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Car Tech Video: 2014 Chevy Spark EV packs a punch

6:46 /

Boasting far more power than its gasoline counterpart, the Spark EV accelerates fast, and its Siri Eyes Free feature will delight iPhone users.

Back in the 90's GM had its first electric car, the EV1, but it canceled that program in 2002 taking those cars away from their leaseholders. Now GM is back in the EV game with the Chevy Spark. Let's take a look at the 2014 Chevy Spark EV. Chevy launched the Spark as a gasoline car. It's actually a global car so it looks a little bit funky, maybe not really perfect for our American audiences as it's weird like oversized headlights. It's a 4-door, although you might not realize it because it has these door handles sort of hidden in the panels here, but you can fit 2 people out of the back here; it's not too bad. That's got a high roof line so the cabin is actually not too bad either. You got good headroom here and I found plenty of legroom. No problem sitting in here. For the EV version, well we've got the charging port right here. We've also got these 15-inch aluminum wheels. They used aluminum to save some weight. Another styling cue for the EV are these front plates on the grill. Obviously you don't need a lot of air intake for an electric car, and they also have some styling along here that if you know the Chevy Volt, this is fairly reminiscent of that car. Now under the hood here we obviously don't have a gasoline engine. We don't have too much to see exactly. We've got some power control electronics up here and the electric motor is down there powering the front wheels. Most of what's gonna be down here is batteries and there's about 500 pounds of lithium ion batteries in this car. That electric motor actually makes this Spark a lot more powerful than the gasoline version. With the gasoline engine at the 1.25-liter, it's only about 85 horsepower. This electric motor gives the Spark EV 140 horsepower and also 400 pound-feet of torque. Actually GM likes to say it's got more torque than the Ferrari 458 Italia. But more important, the charging port. GM puts this on the front side of the car which is pretty convenient when you nose in to a parking space. This is a standard J1772 charging plug. For a 240-volt source it will charge up this car in about 7 hours. This is actually the J1772 combo plug, so you see down here it's got room for 2 extra pins. That's actually a very new standard. It allows this car on a DC fast charger to charge up to about 80 percent battery in 20 minutes. Now the Chevy Spark is actually the first one, the first electric car to include this standard. The BMW i3 will have it too. Now I like to note that its decent size headroom here, I'm 5'8" and I'm pretty comfortable in this space. You know a few more inches I might start getting close to the ceiling. We have this nice body tone metal pattern in here too. That's sort of part of the interior, although we have a lot of hard plastics around too. That's an economy car. We also have this instrument cluster pod here. This is just like in the Spark the gasoline version, but in the electric version we have an LCD panel instead of analog gauges so that makes it configurable. Right now I have been showing kind of minimal information. Here on the left I've got my range left on the battery. On the right I also have the driving coach. This is actually very similar to what they have in the Chevy Volt. I can push this configure button all in the side here and add information so I can have a little more information about the range. I can have information about the driving coach. I can actually see how many kilowatts I'm expending when I'm accelerating, how many I'm gaining when I'm regenerating when I'm braking. I sort of like the information screen that gives me the maximum information. Maybe that's sort of a geek thing that you know people that are into electric cars are really gonna like to see. I also have some of that electric information on the main screen here. Right now I'm on the home screen. I can just push this leaf button here which shows me the power flow situation. This will show me when electricity is going out to the wheels or when the wheels are regenerating electricity to the main battery. And as you can see there's no CD player here. Chevy got rid of the CD player. You know it seems kind of quaint to me to bring these little plastic discs in the car to like play music from when I've got all these music on my iPhone or maybe on a USB stick I bring into the car, the USB port right down here where I can plug in any music. So I can get on my multimedia. I've also got satellite radio, Bluetooth audio. Of course I got, you know, Bluetooth telephone, and I also got this smartphone link and this actually gives me some apps here. So I've got like Pandora and Stitcher and TuneIn. I can run those apps if I have them loaded on my iPhone and the iPhone is plugged into the car. And now if I have an Android phone it'll actually work over Bluetooth. You can also see another app here, BringGo. That's a navigation app that integrates with the head unit. If I have that on my phone, it's $60 for that app so it's one of the cheapest navigation options you can just put into a car without having it preloaded from the factory. -I found 15 places pretty close to you. -This car, the Chevy Spark, is one of the first of the Chevy models to integrate Siri. So then through the phone it'll actually feed me its turn-by-turn directions through the audio system. I don't actually have to look at my phone. I can just hear it tell me when to turn left and turn right and it should recalculate and handle all that kind of stuff. We've got the shifter down here. This is really just a drive slot and there's no transmission in this car except for a single-gear reduction to the wheels. This car has a sport mode. I've used it. It doesn't really seem to do much. I don't know really why they have that here. Maybe Chevy is just trying to convince people that this is a really fast car. The Chevy Spark definitely drives like an electric car. Really like a smooth quiet forward motion and you also feel that torque pretty heavily. It moves forward with real authority. When you press down on it, you can really take off and get moving pretty fast too. And you can also feel that this is electrically boosted power steering. You kind of hear that sort of rheostat-like electric functioning. They don't really hide that very well in this car, so you definitely know it's an electric car. And the ride quality is pretty so-so. Now this is definitely not, you know, luxury car ride. It's far from the Tesla Model S. The 2014 Spark EV goes for about $27,000 with government incentives such like that. Depending on the tax situation, you might be able to bring that down to, say, $20,000 which makes it a pretty reasonably-priced electric car. It compares with the Honda Fit EV and the Fiat 500e. They're all about the same size, very different styles each one. Personally I kind of like the Honda Fit EV for its drivability and its looks and practicality. Now there's also the Nissan LEAF and the Ford Focus Electric, but those are much larger cars. Those are more mid-sized cars. I'm waiting for the day when an automaker can get one of these cars up to 200 miles, and that I think will hit the sweet spot and range for most American buyers.

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