Glancing at the top 10 list on Fueleconomy.gov, you will see the Chevrolet Spark EV has the highest efficiency of any car for the 2015 model year. Glance at the Chevy website and you see this mini electric vehicle retails at $26,685 before state and federal rebates. So how did GM sell just 1,145 models in 2014 (so few the Cadillac ELR was a rival)? Spark EVs have only been available in California and Oregon, but the automaker will introduce a mini-test market by expanding Spark EV sales to Maryland.
First East Coast market
In terms of automobile efficiency in the U.S. market, only the BMW i3 BEV has a greater efficiency (122 combined miles per gallon equivalent) than the Chevy Spark EV (119 combined miles per gallon). Combined with 82 miles of electric range and a post rebate price below $20,000 (but before state incentives), Chevy’s first pure electric would seem to have an obvious market, especially when you consider the car’s highly positive reviews.
Yet sales have been limited to the West Coast since the little battery car hit the market. To date, the Spark EV has been the definition of a compliance car: Low-volume, without a future, existing to score its maker a few zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) credits. Without getting into the complexities, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has forced the hand of automakers who want to keep doing business in the country’s largest auto market, and automakers have obliged without committing much in the way of actual resources with their compliance cars.
Moving to Maryland, which is one of the CARB states and has a population of fewer than six million people, will hardly change this equation for the General. So why bother?
‘Electrified’ GM in the news
The introduction of the Chevrolet Bolt EV concept might explain where GM is going by dispatching the Spark EV to Maryland. In a company statement, marketing director Steve Majoros quick to drop the names of the automaker’s electric vehicle lineup.
“Following the introduction of the next-generation Volt and Bolt EV concept, this further reinforces Chevrolet’s commitment to electrification and delivering more choices where our customers want them,” Majoros said. GM’s unveiling of the Bolt concept definitely reverberated throughout the auto industry. Everyone expected Tesla to be the first with a concept car capable of 200 miles of range at an affordable price. Instead, it was the General firing the first shots.
Opening up sales of the Spark EV in Maryland is a way to keep GM’s “electrification” narrative going without risking anything in terms of prestige or finances. After all, the little EV could hardly sell fewer cars. Then again, maybe it is an experiment ahead of the Bolt that is two years down the road. GM could be testing the waters with a car that could cost less than $17,000 after Maryland incentives apply. If there isn’t enough charging infrastructure or interest in a car that cheap, things are worse than anyone guessed.