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Evidence mounts that the Chevy Spark EV is the best overall electric vehicle

Coming up the ranks quietly behind the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf is an EV that is starting to win all of the comparison tests it enters. Would you have guessed it is the Chevy Spark EV?

Guess which electric car was chosen the winner by Car and Driver in its most recent shoot-out of popular EV/Plug-ins? Now, name the EV that has 400 ft pounds of torque. This car has the lowest 5- year cost of ownership according to Kelly Blue Book. The gas version of this same car just scored the highest in its category in the world’s toughest crash test and is a Top Safety Pick. Finally, the car we are talking about is also the second most fuel efficient vehicle in the US market. If you guessed the Chevy Spark EV you’re right.

The Chevy Spark EV sold 98 units last month continuing its monthly growth rate over the past few. That was surprising since most EVs nose-dived in US sales last month. The world of electric cars is extremely small. Even when counting the plug-in hybrids on the market the total number of EVs sold in the United States in January 2014 was 5,470. To put that into some perspective, in that same month Toyota sold 11,402 Prius cars not including the plug-in version of that car. Even as green cars go, EVs are a small sub segment of the marketplace. Chevy seems to have a hit on its hands and may want to consider building a few more than it needs to meet the California and other ZEV state mandates.

The Spark EV costs just $26,421 to own for 5 years according to Kelly Blue Book which is the best of all EVs and plug-ins. That means including fuel, insurance, maintenance and factoring in tax considerations this car will cost you about $440 per month. That makes it even more affordable than the Toyota Corolla, though in fairness we should point out that the Spark EV is a mini-car and much smaller than a Corolla. Still, the Spark EV is not costing you anything extra to own compared to the Spark gasoline version, which is the most affordable subcompact in the market. If you want a financial reality check, according to the results we got when we used Tesla’s Model S cost of ownership calculator we came up with a monthly cost to own of $1,095. That was for a base 2013 Model S with no navigation system, no high speed charging capability, no supercharger compatibility and it did include the fuel savings and all tax credits (in Massachusetts). The Tesla Model S is by far a superior automobile to the Chevy Spark, and if you have the means we highly recommend it. It may be the best car in the world at any price, but its price point excludes most Americans.

All the EVs and plug-ins I have driven other than the Tesla Model S are slow. Despite what some call high torque, they just don’t go, and they try to make your driving style that of a hyper miler by resisting all your attempts to drive normally or have any fun at all. The Chevy Spark EV is quickly gaining a reputation as a fun to drive car. Car and Driver called the Spark EV “Quick and Spry, fun and cheerful...” That magazine also ranked it number one among all EVs, setting aside the Tesla Model S, which was not included in the comparison. The Spark EV ran to 60 MPH in under 8 seconds, the informal cut-off for any fun in any car at any price.

The Spark EV is not for everyone. It is not a family car and it is not a luxury car. However, as a city car or commuter car it is hard to find an EV that has so much going for it.


Aaron Turpen    February 5, 2014 - 2:49PM

I haven't driven the Chevrolet Spark EV, but I'd have to say that it needs to be REALLY FUN if it's going to outdo the Focus Electric. It also has no style compared to the great little Fiat 500e.

Parks McCants    February 5, 2014 - 11:23PM

True success will come to the EV sector when a manufacturer can present a long range( 300+) mile , brake regenerative EV for under $30 K. Until then, the electric car will be a niche vehicle restricted to inter city commuting and short grocery runs. Sure, I could use one for my daily work commute, but I could also opt for a motorcycle, scooter or high-end bicycle. Only $440+ a month without average mileage factored into the equation is not affordable for many North Americans.What happens after the initial 5 years? Where do we factor in the replacement of the battery cell? B.T.W. Good read.

Chris Johnson (not verified)    February 6, 2014 - 9:17AM

In reply to by Parks McCants

If by many north americans you mean the minority of north americans then you are correct $440 is not affordable. If you mean the majority of north americans then you are wrong since when fuel and insurance and maintanence are considered the majority of north americans already spend more than $440 a month on a car (considering those that buy new). You could buy a cheap used vehicle but then they tend to be less fuel efficient and have higher maintanance costs. The batteries are typically warranteed for 7 years. If they are waranteed for 7 years that means they typically last longer than that. A 300 mile EV would waste 200 miles or more of battery every day. You would be hauling around a huge load of batteries that you pay to move and hardly ever use.

JPWhite (not verified)    February 6, 2014 - 8:45AM

For those living outside the CARB states cars such as the Fiat 500e and Spark EV are simply not available. This factor should be taken into consideration when determining the 'best EV'.

Tesla, Nissan and the Chevy Volt are at least for sale nationwide.

Chris Johnson (not verified)    February 6, 2014 - 9:18AM

GM is not serious. They have reviews like this and yet don't sell the spark EV anywhere but california.

Austin Anderson (not verified)    February 6, 2014 - 11:41AM

Test drove one. Quick, handles and rides great. After incentives an amazing deal for the first electro hotrod. The 100k tesla is cool but environmentally dubious due to huge battery and cost.

Kent (not verified)    February 6, 2014 - 5:46PM

The Spark is indeed fun to drive but only available in Oregon and California. In fact the Oregon sales person we dealt with said Chevy will not even sell the car to someone who does not live in those two states (i wanted to buy and bring back to Nyc). The car will be cheap to operate and very zippy and fun. I ended up buying a Volt which i love and is really more practical for me given my driving habits. But I think the Spark is great. My fear is that Chevy just built it as a compliance car to be able to continue selling gas cars in California. Hope Chevy begins to sell it nationwide as i think it would be great for many people's needs.

John Goreham    February 7, 2014 - 8:54AM

Great comments from all on this story. Yes, it is true Chevy limits the markets for the Spark. That is also true for most of the subcompact EVs. Clearly the automakers are only making what they must to comply with Zero Emissions mandates. As I point out in the start of the article, saying "Chevy seems to have a hit on its hands and may want to consider building a few more than it needs to meet the California and other ZEV state mandates."

nick (not verified)    February 9, 2014 - 10:37AM

"the car we are talking about is also the second most fuel efficient vehicle in the US market. If you guessed the Chevy Spark EV you’re right."
Isn't the spark EV the Most fuel efficent ? If not where are you seeing higher than 119 combined MPGE?

Jon (not verified)    December 11, 2014 - 4:35PM

I've put 7200 miles on my Spark EV and am still loving it! Lease is just a little over $200 a month and I have not spent another dime on it except for insurance. I'm averaging 121 MPGe. I commute about 45-60 miles a day and have about half a battery left when I get home. Plug in and its good to go in the morning. But the best thing about it is that it is a fun little car to drive. That thing is a little rocket that can zip in and out of traffic actually making the dreaded L.A. commute something to look forward to. Parallel parks in tiny spots too! It has to be one of the best kept car secrets ever!