2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Prototype Quick Drive
November 18, 2012
by Benson Kong
Chris Twarog, energy and battery integration engineer for General Motors, hit the nail on the head as he talked me through a 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV cutaway demo unit. I'll paraphrase his noteworthy remark: While the plain-Jane, 84-horsepower, 1.2-liter Spark (with rear drum brakes and optional four-speed automatic) isn't the model of a technically advanced car, its battery-electric variant is -- in spades.
You read it right. The A-segment hatchback that moonlights as an Autobot benefits from a wide array of efficiency enhancing technologies during its EV transformation, despite looking more or less the same as its exhaust-emitting sibling. But electrification is the major difference between the Spark and the Spark EV, so let's get the main components out of the way. Down in front, between the drive wheels, lies a permanent-magnet electric motor. At the core level, it incorporates teachings from the Volt and other eAssist and Two-Mode hybrid efforts. Offering motive force through the single-speed reduction transaxle, the motor is preliminarily rated for more than 134 horsepower and around 400 lb-ft of torque.
A brief spurt around the block reveals a playful demeanor, and because the seating position is expectedly high due to the Spark EV's tall profile, you feel like you're sitting over the car's center of gravity. The steering is accurate on-center at low speeds, but final judgment is reserved until a more comprehensive drive is performed. Torque steer manifests in a relatively smooth, straight line, but there's apparent counteracting damping in place (presumably software-based) as the steering wheel does slow heaves, not twitches. I'm under the impression the electrically assisted steering is still under development.
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