Picture a common golf cart from the country club that your rich uncle who never calls you claims to attend. Now picture it with four doors, 10 air bags, oversized headlights and, oh yeah, a Ferrari 458-eclipsing four hundred electric pound feet of torque. Now picture driving that very thing. It’s hilarious.
Basically, that’s the experience of a 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV in a nutshell. It’s hilariously fun, though you’re budgeting every yard you drive. And you’re always wary of where the nearest charging station is. Because until we have Chargepoint stations alongside all of our gas pumps, range anxiety will be a hurdle for electric vehicles.
As advertised, the 2014 Spark EV achieves 89 electric miles. Though unlike my Chevrolet Volt, there’s no backup gasoline engine to generate more power to the battery. So to help better gauge the range as the car is driven, there’s an estimation for the best possible range and least possible range that fluctuates as its driven. And though I may be precocious enough to read the digital readouts of the Spark EV’s range, there should be no reason that the first time electric vehicle owner can’t decipher the distance the car can still travel.
If you get really low, with around 10 miles left, the Spark EV will reduce its power to prolong battery life. It will also shut down the radio and power down the heat. It’s a mildly tense experience, just like driving around the middle of nowhere 20 miles after the fuel light engages in a normal car. Luckily, there’s no shortage of charging stations in downtown Detroit, with eleven on the ground level in the Beaubien Place parking garage, two more directly in front of the Jefferson Avenue entrance of the Renaissance Center, and two more in a parking lot across from Mudgie’s Deli on Porter Street. There’s also a pair of charging stations within the DIA parking lot in Midtown.
The 2014 Spark EV is also compatible with DC fast chargers, which can charge the battery up to 80 percent in a matter of 20 minutes. Though more convenient than waiting 4-6 hours, they haven’t made their way into the Mitten State just yet. Not that it’s that big of a deal at the moment, as the Spark EV is currently only available in Oregon and California.
Compared to the gasoline model, the Spark EV is exponentially more fun to drive. It’s no rocket, but the little city car scoots forward from 0-60 in about 7.6 seconds, faster than the Volt, and tops out at 90 mph. Which, quite frankly, in a car this small, feels faster. Mind you, bolting around silently from light to light will not do your range any favors.
The interior of the Spark EV is pleasant, as far as little cars go. The Chevy MyLink touchscreen and colored paneling are the cabin’s affectations, yet the MyLink system needs a few buttons to make things less distracting and time consuming while trying to focus on the task at hand which is driving. There was also an iPhone programmed with the BringGo navigation app, which would otherwise require a paid subscription. The app would also chime in to let me know to watch my speed. I hated this. Pro tip: if you want to use a proven, free, and less annoying navigation app, there’s this thing called Google Maps.
While the Spark EV looks minimal, its driving nature is incomparable to anything else in the Chevrolet lineup. It’s far more entertaining than the gasoline-powered Spark, and pushes harder than the Volt, as the rest of the car tries to manage the torque. Perhaps sportier tires, brakes and suspension would help. Maybe Chevrolet Performance Parts can do something about that someday. Yet because nothing quite matches the 400 lb-ft of torque from its permanent-magnet electric motor and 21-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, I’m left chuckling, as the tires protest back at me from lack of grip around a bend. And with an MSRP of less than $20,000 after factoring in the applicable $7,500 federal tax credit, the Spark EV is easily the most enjoyable, if not interesting, cars to drive that Chevrolet offers for the price.