I love my 2016 Chevy Spark! I purchased it used for $10,000, and, so far, I’m very happy with it. Although Chevrolet discontinued its manufacture just a few years ago, the model lives on in the used car market where it’s gaining praise.

Since this is my first electric vehicle (EV), I was faced with much to learn about the electric life on the road. What follows is a summary that I hope readers will find useful. WARNING: I am no expert. Please do your own research to confirm what I say. Working with electrical circuits and devices is dangerous. Contact a qualified electrician for any significant modifications.

Editor’s note: California residents qualify for generous grants to purchase used clean vehicles. For example, a family of three with an income of less than $83,000 currently qualifies for the following grants if the vehicle you want to purchase is no more than 8 years old and has less than 75,000 miles (as of March 2020). For more information about electric vehicle grants and rebates, check out the Cool Davis Rebates and Tax Credits web page. 

Download Cool Davis Used Electric Vehicle Guidance (3 pages) HERE NOW!

Range

One of the first things most people consider when buying an EV is how far will it take them on a single charge. The Spark is rated for 80 to 90 miles of range, but that’s only true if your average speed is about 25 to 30 mph. Freeway driving gives a range that’s much less (50 to 60 miles). Happily, one full charge is enough to take me from my Davis area home to my workplace in Sacramento and back, a round trip of 52 miles, with 10 to 20 miles of range to spare, depending on driving conditions (see my discussion of travel speeds in the EV Driving Style section below).

The Spark has a nifty display on the dash that includes a real-time estimate of maximum range (slow driving), minimum range (freeway) and the range predicted if you maintain your current average. This dashboard data has proven quite useful.

 

Home charging

There are lots of articles on the internet that describe the process of charging on the road. Here I will focus on what I have learned about charging at home. The rate of recharging the battery is dependent on both the voltage and the current of the electrical power supplied. Increasing either will reduce the time it takes for a full recharge.

The charging cable supplied with the Spark is designed to work on a typical household circuit of 110 to 120 volts and 15 to 20 amps of current. Under these conditions it takes over 20 hours to recharge the full capacity of the battery. This would cause problems for me if my commute were daily.

Charging time can be enhanced 2- to 7-fold by charging on a circuit with higher voltage (220 volts) and/or current (up to 40 amps). If you have a free 220-volt outlet in your home, you’re in luck. Keep in mind that the factory supplied charging cable that came with your EV may not be rated for 220 volts so you may have to buy a replacement. Search for “EV charger” on shopping websites. Pay attention to both the voltage and current ratings of the item you buy. They should not exceed the ratings of the household circuit you’re going to plug into. Most of us have only 110 volts available. You can hire an electrician to install a 220 circuit or you can do it yourself if you have the knowledge and skill.

Another problem with home charging is the distance from the socket to the car is often greater than the length of the charging cable. Electrical extension cords that link the socket to the charger are a no-no in the view of all manufacturers. Fortunately, one southern California company, QC Charge, has found a way around this by making a 40-foot extension for the charge cable itself (see link below). Combining it with your current cable typically gives you 65 feet to work with. QC Charge makes one cable for Tesla and another for all other electric vehicles.

 

EV driving style

A delightful and unexpected consequence of owning an EV is the extent to which it changed my driving style and my overall mindset on the road. Since range is decreased by driving too fast, I find myself looking for ways to slow down. This has been a big bonus to my psyche. I tend to stay away from freeways and hence avoid the myriad bad interactions that occur there. I’m happy when I get stuck behind slower cars and I tend to follow trucks rather than curse at them and look for ways to pass.

Finally, backroads are so much prettier and enjoyable to drive on than freeways. Heavy traffic also slows you down, so you don’t mind it as much. So overall, I feel like driving an electric vehicle has significantly mellowed me out behind the wheel, making me a better and happier person.

By Ken Beck, Spark Guy

More resources

Praise for the Spark from Road & Track magazine

QC Charge charging cable extensions

For more information about electric vehicles, check out the Cool Davis Drive Electric web page.

For more information about electric vehicle grants and rebates, check out the Cool Davis Rebates and Tax Credits web page.

Download Plug In America’s Used Electric Vehicle Buyer’s Guide (6 pages)

Download Cool Davis Used Electric Vehicle Guidance (2 pages) HERE NOW!