One glance at the $31,445 starting price of this 2015 all-electric Chevrolet Spark EV tester, and it’s hard to choke down the disbelief. Yes, that’s about double what most gas-powered Sparks are advertised at these days, the contrast even more stark raving mad with especially aggressive deals now on to clear out the gas-powered 2015 models, before an all-new 2016 gas Spark arrives this fall.

That’s a hefty $12,275 more than the similarly equipped gas Spark. But there’s a few important caveats to this Spark EV’s near-$34k as tested price to keep in mind: a) the Spark EV doesn’t officially go on sale to the public until early in 2016, so this price was the MSRP of a fleet vehicle; and b) fleet vehicle pricing is usually less than consumer vehicles, since the public doesn’t tend to buy cars in bulk. So the price may move in either direction, but likely up, by the time drivers can actually walk into a dealership, and walk out with a zero emissions, no gas-or-engine-noise-ever Spark EV.

There’s a reason that even GM Canada says this will be a low volume, niche vehicle. And I say this as not only an enthusiastic fan of electric vehicles, but an owner as well.

Yes, the Spark EV will qualify for some generous provincial green car rebates in Canada: $8,500 in Ontario, $8,000 in Quebec and $5,000 in British Columbia, the only three provinces where it’ll be made available. Plus in BC, there’s another $3,000 available from its separately funded car scrappage program.

Still, no nation-wide publicly funded charging infrastructure or plug-in purchase incentives exist in Canada, at least not yet, unlike most if not all other G8 and possibly G20 countries nowadays.

That maximum $8,500 Ontario incentive would bring the Spark EV’s starting price down to about $23k even, whereas right now, a top-line 2015 Spark maxes out at an as tested price of $20,870 before incentives, according to GM Canada’s consumer website, though the Spark EV offers a scrappy driving personality and some equipment that just isn’t available on the gas Spark.

But forget about price for now. The Spark EV is a rolling testbed of silent and torquey goodness, making it both an engineering and marketing experiment for GM Canada. It’s visually identical to its gasoline counterpart, minus the roof racks and EV badges, but it’s also a significantly more advanced car than its much louder, slower and less powerful gasoline namesake.

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The Spark EV uses a 110-kilowatt motor that delivers 130 hp and a ground-pounding 327 lb-ft of torque, compared to just 83 ponies and a middling 83 lb-ft of torque from its cheaper gasoline twin. Initially, GM rated this motor at an even 400 lb-ft, but has since downgraded that figure, though that’s still about four times the gas engine’s low-end oomph. In such a light vehicle, that’s a huge power figure, making it capable of an official 0-96 km/h run in 7.2 seconds, or identical to the much pricier – but very unique-looking – BMW i3.

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