Monday, September 9, 2013

NEW CAR PREVIEW: Chevrolet’s bright Spark

The Chevrolet Spark EV seems like a late me-too entrant to the electric citycar class but the engineering is straight out of the top drawer.
You get an 82 mile range, an option for rapid charging, genuinely rapid acceleration and smart technology integration inside.
Given that most Chevrolet Spark buyers opt for a 1.0-litre 67bhp petrol engine, they’d be very pleasantly surprised by the Spark EV’s turn of speed. It’s almost twice as rapid. It gets to 60mph in 8.5 seconds (as opposed to 15.5 seconds for the petrol car) and its motor generates 130bhp. True, we tend not to be looking at outright pace as the key buying criterion when choosing electric cars, but there’s so much po-faced worthiness that surrounds battery-powered vehicles that it’s good to know that should you want to let your hair down a little, the Spark EV can get its hustle on.
The Spark EV is powered by an advanced electric motor and battery system consisting of a GM-designed, coaxial drive unit and electric motor that together deliver 542Nm of torque for instant acceleration. There’s something wholly appealing about owning a citycar with more torque than a Ferrari 458 Italia.
So, we’ve seen that the Spark EV delivers a big grin to the driver but many electric vehicles, especially compact ones, are compromised in terms of practicality because of the requirement to package the batteries. The Spark’s 336 lithium-ion cells can’t go under the floor like in some designed-from-a-clean-sheet electric vehicles, so the only other place to put them is under the boot floor and rear seats. The carrying capacity with the rear seats in place was an already meagre 170-litres and now drops by almost 50 litres.
The electric vehicle market is moving in the right direction. Prices for the vehicles are coming down, the choice of the cars is broadening and smarter battery and drive technology is improving real world range. The Chevrolet Spark EV comes winging in from left field somewhat with an offering that, from a technical perspective, knocks most of its rivals for six.
If you’ve been looking at electric citycars with little more than idle curiosity, the Spark EV might well be the model that tips your hand.