A tiny torque terror
Los Angeles, CA - Chevrolet’s big introduction at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show was the Spark EV, the first all-electric GM passenger vehicle since the ill-fated EV-1.
GM has clearly moved on, and we should too.
In the U.S. the Spark EV will have a base price of about $32,500, but is eligible for the U.S. federal rebate of $7,500, so its effective MSRP is around $25,000.
“Our engineering team was able to accelerate [Spark EV] development and reduce development cost by sharing many of the systems and components we use in the Chevrolet Volt,” remarked Pamela Fletcher, Chevrolet Chief Engineer of Electrified Vehicles.
Tiny terror motor
A technical tour of the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV by Larry Nitz, affectionately known as GM’s “mad scientist” when it comes to electrifying vehicles, revealed that one of the major learnings from the Volt program was that people really love that “liquid acceleration” sensation afforded by an all-electric powertrain -- no downshifting, just pure uninterrupted forward motion.
“So, when it came to do (the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV), we said let’s ramp that up a bit.”
Result: An electric motor that produces 400 lb-ft of torque -- more than a Porsche 911! The little Spark EV can zoom from zero to 60 mph in under 8 seconds.
The 110 kW (130 hp) motor and its single-gear drive unit (or transmission) were completely engineered by GM in North America, marking the first time a U.S. automaker will build an entire electric powertrain for a modern EV in its own country.
In addition to the torque, the motor is notable for its compactness. Nitz said a comparable 100 kW “industrial” motor would be five times the size.
The little Spark EV can zoom from zero to 60 mph in under 8 seconds. (Photo: Chevrolet)
Big little battery
The 560lb lithium-ion battery pack in the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, consisting of 336 cells, is packaged under the rear seats in two units, one behind the rear axle and one in front of it. The lump pushes the Spark’s weight to just under 3,000 lbs, and gives it a 50/50 front/rear weight bias.
Range, while not announced, will be “among” the best in its small-car category. The Honda Fit EV currently tops that list at 82 miles (132 km).
For the record, the Spark's battery is warranted for 160,000 kms or 8 years.
A new feature allows the battery to be cooled and heated from grid power whenever the 2014 Chevy Spark EV is plugged in. Owners could, therefore, extend battery life by keeping the Spark EV plugged in during hot weather. Batteries hate heat above all else.
You can also heat the cabin from the grid, which would save more battery juice for driving range.
A “normal” 12V battery is also on board to power infotainment and accessories.
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV uses a version of the Volt’s on-board charger. However, the Spark EV is the first to (optionally) offer the new SAE Combo DC Fast Charge protocol. GM says that the DC Fast Charge will juice the Spark’s battery pack to 80% capacity in only 20 minutes.
Such “fast charging” could potentially wear out the battery more quickly, but GM says it’s designed to take it; battery cooling is one of the design features that helps in this regard.
A 240V outlet in your home will charge the Spark EV in less than seven hours.
GM says that the DC Fast Charge will juice the Spark’s battery pack to 80% capacity in only 20 minutes. (Photo: Chevrolet)
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV is more aerodynamic than the regular Spark. No need for an engine-cooling grille opening, so they're closed off. Below the faux grille is an actual opening for the HVAC and battery “chillers” (or radiators); the car employs a shutter when airflow cooling isn't needed.
The EV also features a more pronounced rear spoiler, underbody airflow panels, and low-resistance tires. GM figures all these changes add about 4 km of range to the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV.
More interior tech
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV features two 7” LCD screens and all the connected goodies found on the regular Spark, like Chevy’s MyLink system for syncing smartphones and their apps, that will add Apple’s Siri voice recognition to the party this year.
Like the Volt, you can remotely charge and monitor your battery use. Notable is the “confidence gauge,” which shows expected driving range based on how many sports cars you race, and/or how hot or cold you keep the cabin.
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV features two 7” LCD screens and all the connected goodies found on the regular Spark. (Photo: Chevrolet)
Hold on Canada
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV is supposedly a global car. So far, it’s announced target countries are the U.S., Canada, and South Korea. It will launch initially (this summer) in California and Oregon. They’re coming to Canada next summer, too, but only to fleet customers. No word on Canadian pricing or consumer availability.