Review: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

Wednesday October 8th, 2014 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

By David Colman

Hypes: Perfect 10 on the Greenhouse Gas Scale
Gripes: Impractical Range, Rubbery Suspension

Home, home on the range anxiety. The electric motor Spark EV, which is sold only in California and Oregon, is a great idea whose time has not yet come. Without any back-up source of power, the Spark is dead when its lithium ion battery runs out of charge. This problem limits your range to at most 80 miles of real world driving. If your destination lies more than 40 miles distant, and you plan on returning without delay, you’d better leave the Spark home, tethered to its recharge umbilical, while you take a real car instead.

We set off on a 50 mile one way drive with more than 50 miles showing on the range indicator. 25 miles into the drive, the remaining range suddenly dropped from 25 miles to 11 as we crested a long hill. The system emitted a warning “Bing” and dashboard lights flashed the disconcerting information that we needed to “Recharge Soon.” Okay, so we pulled off the highway and, luckily, found a shopping plaza with an ARCO gas station, Starbucks cafe and KFC restaurant. Little did we know we would be spending the next 3 hours stuck here as we tried unsuccessfully to recharge the Spark. Chevy provides a 120V recharging unit with a 3 prong plug which we inserted into the wall receptacle of the ARCO station, with kind permission from the manager.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

After an hour of purported recharging, we returned to find that nothing was gained because the wall socket was apparently dead. So we found another socket, plugged in the charger and were unpleasantly surprised to find that although this socket had juice, the fussy Spark charger refused to operate, illuminating a red light to indicate failure to charge. Apparently, the recharger will not operate in all live outlets. Nor can you use an extension cord to connect it.

After 2 hours of phone calls, we were able to locate a Charge Point station within our now 8 mile range, drive there, only to find ourselves stymied by lack of the Charge Point affinity credit card needed to dislodge the charging wand for use. More phone calls finally got electrons flowing into the Spark. We then had to hitch a ride home with a friend, who also drove us back to retrieve the partially recharged Spark some 5 hours later.

Once you accept this EV for what it is – basically the ideal mail delivery vehicle for a six block square housing subdivision – you’ll be happy with your cute, puppy faced Spark. After all, it scores 10 on the EPA’s “Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Scale” as well as 10 on the “Smog Scale.” It also carries a rating of 119 MPGe, which means its theoretical rating exceeds its real world range by about 40 miles. The EPA also rates its recharge time as 7 Hours. Unless you have a 240 Volt recharge station at your disposal, you can expect to spend about 20 hours recharging depleted Spark batteries. We estimated that the charge rate at our 110 volt garage outlet was good for about 4 miles of range for each hour of charge time. Grass grows faster than Spark recharges itself.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

Chevy has tried to jazz up the interior of the Spark EV with stylistic cues taken from the Volt. Inside the tiny cabin, you’ll find hard touch surfaces for radio and climate controls. The dash sports random directional slashes incised into its surface to impart a feeling of energy and brash individualism. The seats pick up the party line with their free form dot conga lines. The door panels and dash spine use blue-grey plastic inserts to lighten the interior and imbue it with further playfulness. The shiny plastic housing of the instrument cluster reflects itself distractingly in the windshield and side mirrors. Living in the Spark EV is like spending time inside an Igloo drink cooler.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

The one feature electric motors are best at providing is torque. The Spark EV produces an instant wallop of 400 lb.-ft. the second you floor the accelerator. So impressive is this launch from a standing start that the Spark’s front wheels go light as weight transfers to the tail end. Lightness is the byword of Spark handling. With teeny (185/55R15), hard shell (370 Tread Wear Rating) Bridgestone Ecopia tires, Spark’s connection to the pavement is tenuous at best. If you engage the “Sport” setting on the central console, handling improves marginally. However, you will not mistake this diminutive sedan for a sports ride under any circumstances. The Spark lives to do only one thing well: travel short distances while avoiding gas stations altogether.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

  • Engine: GM Electric Drive System with 21kWh Lithium Ion Battery Pack
  • Horsepower: 140hp
  • Torque: 400 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 119 MPGe
  • Price as Tested: $28,570
  • Star Rating: 5 out of 10 Stars

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2011 Nissan LEAF Review – vs. the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius

Wednesday December 14th, 2011 at 4:1212 PM
Posted by: the911guy

2011 Nissan LEAF vs. Toyota Prius
By Dan Tsuchiya

Pros:

  • 100 miles on a full charge
  • Eco Mode for dummies
  • Drives like a car, not an enclosed golf cart
  • It actually looks good and not a social statement
  • Batteries are mounted very low so out of the way physically and lowers the center of gravity
  • Total energy cost for a year is about $500
  • It turns a new leaf in the saga american motoring :)

Cons:

  • 100 miles on a full charge (run it down, you’re stuck)
  • 14-16 hour charge using 110V household current
  • Front seats are very basic
  • $35k base will keep it away from the masses.

Video from Roadfly.com (click ’360p’ to watch in HD)
YouTube Preview Image

Remember the first time you rode/drove an EV? It could have been a battery powered toy car, a golf cart, or even a gas powered car converted to electric, but they all had one thing in common; acceleration like an on/off switch….no modulation. More than 10 years ago Toyota brought the hybrid Prius to the United States and it was one of the first cars with fantastic modulation and packaged in a base car that was previously gas powered. I currently have a second generation Prius in the stable and our staff was lucky enough to test the Chevrolet Volt a couple of months back.

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GM EN-V Explores Personal Urban Transportation

Tuesday September 13th, 2011 at 6:99 PM
Posted by: ponycargirl

GM EN-V Jiao
By Megan Green

In the late 1800′s, as cities grew larger and more crowded, the automobile become more and more of a necessity to offset the unhealthy and malodorous pollution from horses. Each horse could produce upwards of 35 pounds of waste per day, not to mention the macabre detail that dead horses littered the cities in the thousands per year. In 1903, William Phelps Eno wrote the first traffic code in the world for the city of New York and very soon the world was introduced to the Stop sign. Several years after that, Henry Ford put the modern assembly lines into practice, thus making the automobile cheaper and accessible to a wider range of consumers. This all led to the prevalence of automobile use and ownership facilitating the migration of people from cities to newly created suburbs post-World War II.

Now, in year 2011, we are at a similar crossroads. The trend has reversed; people are moving back to cities to decreasing space and resources. The streets are once again congested and, as a result, generating unhealthy emissions. Not only that, but the cost of filling up the gas tank just keeps skyrocketing. In the United States, CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, enacted in 1975 as part of the Energy Policy Conservation Act, were updated in 2007 by the Bush Administration with the mandate to improve fuel economy (and therefore reduce tailpipe emissions) to 35mpg by model year 2020. President Obama announced another agreement July 29, 2011 to increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025.

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Alaska Road Trip With the Chevrolet Volt and Olympus E-P3 Camera

Monday July 11th, 2011 at 12:77 PM
Posted by: ponycargirl

Chevy Volt Olympus E-P3 Alaska Trip
By Megan Green

This past April, I was given the opportunity to go on a June road trip in a 2011 Chevy Volt and photograph it with the newly launched Olympus E-P3 camera.

When I told friends that I was going to Alaska to drive a Chevrolet Volt around, their first reactions were, “Ice Road Truckers!” Then came a barrage of questions; “Good luck with that, can you even drive that far in it? What’s the range, like 50 miles? How are you going to charge it in the middle of the wilderness? Are small towns even equipped to recharge electric vehicles? How long does it take to charge it?”

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2011 Nissan Leaf Review – Driving into the future with Nissan’s EV

Thursday June 9th, 2011 at 2:66 PM
Posted by: jlora

2011 Nissan LEAF
By Jessika Lora

Positrons:

  • Roomy and flexible interior space
  • 100 mile range on a single charge
  • Solar panel converts sunlight into power to charge essentials without draining the battery
  • Turning heads and changing the minds of even the old-timers

Electrons:

  • Limited number of places to plug-in and recharge
  • Only a 100 mile range on a single charge
  • Using 110V household current, you can fly to Hong Kong in as much time it takes to charge a drained battery
  • Blind spot caused by rear hatch pillar

Driving up the 101 my dad saw the Nissan LEAF billboard next to the 4th street Bay Bridge on-ramp, “That car doesn’t use ANY gas?” At $4.25 a gallon and with no indication of a price ceiling he encouraged me to look into this car, “You know, you’re driving up and down the bay 120 miles each day, this could pay for itself in gas savings.”

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Tesla Model S EV Sedan

Wednesday June 1st, 2011 at 4:66 PM
Posted by: aquadog

Tesla Model SThe new electric Tesla Model S  production is scheduled to begin in mid-2012, starting with the Signature Series, and continuing with the 300-mile batteries, followed by 230-mile and 160-mile battery options later that year. Tesla will offer three battery options, the 160-, 230-, and the 300-mile range. The Model S will come standard with the 160-mile range battery with the 230-mile and 300-mile range batteries as optional upgrades. The Model S Signature will also come with the 300-mile range battery and will have limited edition offerings with colors and options not available for Model S.

The Model S will have a top speed of approximately 125 mph, a 0-60 mph time of approximately 5.6 seconds, and a single-speed gearbox. It will feature a standard 17” infotainment touchscreen on every Model S with in-car 3G connectivity for streaming radio and gps navigation, a liquid-cooled, floor-mounted battery pack, and panoramic glass roof and rear-facing child seats as planned optional upgrades.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt Review – Our Weekend With Chevy's New EV/Hybrid and a Prius

Monday April 11th, 2011 at 3:44 PM
Posted by: the911guy

By Dan Tsuchiya

Positrons

  • Great Design and better looking than any Prius made to date
  • Electricity first; leading to 250-500 mpg if you have access an outlet
  • Feels safer and more substantial than it’s competitors
  • 0-60 acceleration faster than a Honda Civic

Electrons

  • Electric Vehicle (EV) range limited to 35 miles before gas motor has to recharge batteries
  • Interior has too many hard plastic surfaces
  • Soft-touch buttons are too sensitive
  • Navigation and radio are integrated such that you can’t have one on without the other

Living with the Chevrolet Volt is about making a green statement, but without the usual green sacrifices. It’s not a hybrid as defined by the Toyota and Honda camp, it’s an extended range electric vehicle (EV) that combines the gas saving benefits of pure electric cars with the range and convenience of conventional gas powered cars. While the Toyota and Honda camps utilize gas and electricity in parallel, the Volt takes a series approach, EV first then gas. The EV range fully charged is about 35 miles and once that power depletes, the Volt fires up its 1.4L engine to charge the batteries and provide juice to the electric motor, allowing for another 250-300 miles of driving under normal conditions.

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Posted in Chevrolet, Expert Reviews, hybrid |Tags:, , , , || 4 Comments »


Video of Nissan Esflow EV Sports Car Concept – The Sports Car of the Future?

Monday February 14th, 2011 at 2:22 PM
Posted by: aquadog

Nissan Esflow EV Sports Car ConceptNissan will unveil the new electric Esflow EV sports car concept at next month’s Geneva Motor Show, to demonstrate how a sports car of the future might look.

Nissan’s Esflow is based on the technology from their first practical Zero Emission car, the Nissan Leaf; however, the powertrain is tuned to offer a more sporty driving experience with rear-wheel drive and two motors. The two electric motors are positioned above the axis of the rear wheels to control the left and right wheels independently, producing optimized torque (60mph/100kph in under 5 seconds), vehicle stability, and efficient power regeneration. Like the Leaf, the motors will be powered by laminated lithium-ion battery packs, but will be situated low along the axis of the front and rear wheels, to help out the center of gravity, allowing the Esflow to travel over 150 miles (240km) on one charge.

Video clip and photo gallery of the Esflow after the jump
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2011 Chevrolet Volt First Impressions Review – Yes, it drives like a real car

Monday October 18th, 2010 at 6:1010 AM
Posted by: Derek

By Derek Mau

Don’t bore me with the technical details about GM’s hybrid system built into the Chevrolet Volt. I don’t care if the Chevy Volt is a pure battery-electric vehicle, or a parallel hybrid, or a plug-in EV that requires an electrical umbilical cord. The techno-geeks can search elsewhere if they are looking for torque/power efficiency maps that identify speeds the gas engine engages to assist with driving the car. Just tell me if this Popular Mechanics wet dream, range-extended EV can take me where I want to any day of the week without having to include a visit to an electrical recharging station (which are mightily scarce here in eco-conscious California and around the North American continent).

I drove the new 2011 Chevrolet Volt at one of the stops for the Chevy Volt’s western region “Volt Unplugged” tour where they are traveling from Seattle to San Diego in a caravan of Volts. My test drive was short, but very revealing as it gave me an opportunity to learn more from the team of engineers and experts from GM. The test course, laid out in the Presidio of San Francisco, included a chance to test brief accelerations, ability to climb short hills, some sweeping turns, and lots of low speed driving. Freeway performance is “very good” according to the anecdotal accounts from the team members who are on the western region tour. So far the tour has been a success and traveling between cities has had zero hiccups. Every night the Volts on tour are recharged off a 110V outlet and everything is good to go in the morning.

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Posted in Chevrolet, Expert Reviews |Tags:, , , || 11 Comments »


Plug-In 2010: Electric cars on the cusp of mainstream success, but challenges remain

Wednesday July 28th, 2010 at 9:77 AM
Posted by: AKramer

PEVs

What a difference a decade makes.

After GM pulled the plug on its groundbreaking EV1 in 1999, it seemed like the goal of driving mass-produced electric cars had also been flushed down the drain.

Fast forward ten years and we have two plug-in vehicles being released by major manufacturers that are targeted towards mainstream car buyers, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, with models from Toyota, Ford, Mitsubishi, Honda, and BMW coming in 2012.

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