After two years of fleet only sales, Chevrolet’s little all-electric powerhouse to be sold to Canadian consumers

The spritely little Chevrolet Spark EV will go on sale to the Canadian public in early 2016, after being available only to Canadian fleet buyers and certain U.S. states over the past two years.

It will be offered initially in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, which just re-introduced government rebates earlier this month, but not at all dealers that currently sell the Volt extended-range EV, said GM Canada product specialist George Saratlic this week. Pricing will be announced closer to its on sale date, but in the U.S., the 2015 Spark EV lists for US$26,685, or about US$10,000 more than a similarly equipped gas Spark.

In Canada, the same gas Spark in the top (2LT) trim level starts at $19,170, suggesting that the Spark will hit the market in the high $20k range, which would put it about midway price-wise between the similarly four-seat Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the five-seat Nissan Leaf that starts in the low $30s.

If that sounds too pricy for a Spark, keep in mind that all of these vehicles are now eligible for provincial clean vehicle rebates of $8,000 (in Quebec) to $8,500 (in Ontario), as well as up to $1,000 rebates towards the purchase and installation of 240V Level 2 home chargers for your garage or driveway.

Offering 327 lb-ft of torque in a subcompact body, the Spark EV promises to inject some performance spice to the affordable end of the BEV market. Its 130-hp engine is less than that in the BMW i3, perhaps its nearest four-seat rival, but its 7.2-second 0-96 km/h time is identical to the $45,300 BMW’s 0-100 km/h time, thanks to about double the i3’s 184 lb-ft peak.

From two brief test drives of the Spark EV, it feels similarly punchy down low, but not nearly as impressive in the handling department as the BMW. On the other hand, the Spark EV also offers a more relaxed and smoother driveline, with much less aggressive regeneration than the i3 as soon as you step off the accelerator – can’t call these gas pedals any more.

But many EV enthusiasts will be more interested in the range offered by the Spark EV’s 18.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which is EPA rated at 132 km, so within three kilometres of the i3 BEV and Leaf, and 10 km higher than the Ford Focus EV. And unlike the Focus EV, its cargo area is not encumbered by bulky BEV hardware.

The Spark EV will also offer a DC quick-charger that allows it to replenish its batteries up to 80 percent in about 20 minutes. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that this quick charging is of the new SAE Combo standard, of which there are far fewer stations in Canada now than the competing CHAdeMO standard used by the Leaf and Kia Soul EV – even Tesla recently made an adapter available for the Model S. It is true that most of the more recent and upcoming quick-charging installations will provide separate handles for both the SAE Combo and CHAdeMO compliant vehicles, but it’s still a VHS-versus-Beta standards war that won’t help the rollout of these vehicles or the quick-chargers that can help their adoption much more rapidly than the much less expensive Level 2 chargers.

All this said, Saratlic admits the Spark EV will be a niche vehicle, so don’t expect its sales to compare to the Volt or even the Leaf. With the high-profile launch of a vehicle based on the Chevrolet Bolt concept planned in the next year or two, and an all-new 2016 gas Spark arriving in Canada by the end of this year, the 2016 Spark EV looks to be a fun placeholder car to help establish the dealer infrastructure needed for a more aggressive assault on the Canadian EV market.

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