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There's no question that Portland, Ore. is a place full of people who care about the environment. As we have previously reported, Portland is home to numerous examples of electric vehicle infrastructure, such as Electric Avenue near Portland State University and the West Coast Green Highway. That's why Oregon was the perfect place for General Motors to host a test drive of their new Chevrolet Spark EV, GM's most recent foray into electric vehicles.

The Spark EV offers a driving range of 82 miles and an EPA-estimated 119 MPGe combined city/highway, comparable to EV competitors like the Nissan Leaf. With a suggested retail price of $26,685, the Spark EV costs more than a base Leaf, but less than a Ford Focus EV.

Chevy Spark EV

The Spark EV makes use of a digital instrument cluster that displays everything from available range, to the percentage of power being used on air conditioning. The vehicle can also provide driving tips to help the driver get the most out of their charge.

With 400 pound-feet of torque delivered to the front wheels in an instant, the Spark EV is capable of keeping up with most sports cars off the line...at least for a few yards. We were even able to chirp the tires from a standing start.

The Spark EV is also surprisingly roomy for being such a small car. It seats four adults comfortably, thanks in part to the placement of the battery, which straddles the rear axle.

Chevy Spark EV

The Spark EV may be GM's first all-electric vehicle since the EV1-era, but it isn't the first plug-in in the company's current portfolio. That title belongs to the Chevrolet Volt, which is now entering its fourth year of production. It's that vehicle to which the Spark EV owes much of its technology.

"The traction power inverter modules, the control system for the motor... and the power electronics. All of these are built off learnings from the Volt," explains Trista Schiefer, the Lead Development Engineer for the Spark EV. "The first time we plugged in our [Spark EV] development vehicle we got the green light and that's because we were building on the learnings from the Volt."

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Test Drive

For all of the innovation that Chevrolet has poured into the Volt and Spark EV, they seem to have set a limit as to what customers should expect of their all-electric vehicle. During our time in Portland, Chevy indicated that taking an EV on a long road trip is just something that isn't reasonable now, nor would be in the future.

While we agree that driving across the country in an EV today would require a lot of time stopped charging, it would be nice to think that one day it could happen without the hassle. That's precisely what other EV-makers are aiming for, namely Tesla Motors with their Supercharger network and battery swap option.

The Spark EV's biggest disappointment comes in its limited release. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the vehicle will only be available in California and Oregon, with no plan for further distribution anywhere on the horizon.

Despite these drawbacks, Chevy has done what they set out to do: make an EV with surprising performance and roominess for its size, while keeping the price reasonable when compared to the competition.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm sick and tired of people knocking American made autos. Why don't all you foreign car lovers go to the country of origin where thie profits go....you morons. I've driven GM all my life and have driven all over the country and never had ONE breakdown. BUT, I take care of my vehicles. Something most people don't want to do, or even know how. GO GM and go to you know where with the foreign car lovers.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Read my lips "microdiesel hybrid" until then, these cars are a joke....at approx. 80mpg, a 20 hp microdiesel charging hybrid can recharge (like a Volt) while driving, or while parked. Combined, that's well over 150mpg combined. During a workday, a 20hp engine can make enough charge for almost 1/2 the battery capacity...and....a small car only needs 20 hp and as much torque as a small diesel puts out, to drive at 35 mph on a perfectly straight road, with just the driver....motors only have to kick in as acceleration, and gradient occur. Hwy speeds would only need 1 of the 2 motors, unless acceleration and/or a gradient was a factor. Volkswagon is the closest to this technology....and may be available in a couple of years. Look for a "honeycomb" polymer chassis platform and other flat parts, like body panels....less weight than aluminium, and 4 times as strong as steel.
      • 1 Year Ago
      It looks like they built the car and then somebody said, "OMG, we forgot to put taillights on it. So, someone ran down to the truck department and got some big truck fender style, surface mount turn signals and they simply glued them on the back end. The back end of this vehicle is quite an abortion.
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Volt is fantastic---I have driven mine for 2,400 miles and used a total of 1.3 gal of gas. It is the ideal car for useing around the city as I average 44 miles per charge.
        • 1 Year Ago
        My VW Diesel gets 53 MPG.
        • 1 Year Ago
        How much of that time to you spend sitting in traffic jams? What do you do when your batteries run out of juice. How do you propose to dispose of your batteries when they are no longer useful? Do you know why batteries are no longer manufacture, rebuilt, or disposed of in the U.S.? Or do you only care about the environment around your personal space, and the rest of the world is on their own! Your '44 miles per charge' wouldn't get 99% of the people around the LA area to work!
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hot damn and a FIAT for the price of a Mercedes and it goes 82 miles before ya have to plug it in FOR 12 HOURS. WOW! Can't wait to sign up for THAT deal. So it is much better for the enviorment as it doesn't use dirty ole gasoline. Instaed it works off of clean electricity that is made by burning dirty ole coal. They should run these in NASCAR. The Daytona 500 would take like a week. Come on GM go back to the drawing board and design a car we can USE.
        • 1 Year Ago
        GM doesn't design cars anymore, the government does.
      • 1 Year Ago
      How much electric does the air conditioning take. What about running the heater, lights, defrost, wipers and rear defrost in winter? How well is that going to work? a golf cart is a golf cart. These are not suited to harsher climates of use. Cold or hot they will have a very much shortened charge and short range.
      • 1 Year Ago
      My only experience with Checy vehicles has been "breandown" vehicles.
      • 1 Year Ago
      hmm ... drive less miles and carpool ... and drive a car you can drive whenever v. whenever you can charge it up.
      • 1 Year Ago
      The whole country should have been converted to natural gas 40 years ago. No pollution, no greehouse effect here, and a gold raised middle finger to the middle east. Sat on our ass for 40 years plus. 500 years of natural gas, and still sit on our asses. Stupid.
      Bud Brown
      • 1 Year Ago
      Tesla claims a much longer range. They also are planning free charging stations at reasonable milage separations. You know, drive for three hours and take a thirty minute break for coffee and a charge.
      • 1 Year Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Some day I am going to have an EV.
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