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General Motors (NYSE: GM ) is often blamed for killing the electric car in the early 1990s. However, it could now be said that GM is about to supercharge the electric-vehicle revolution, with the launch of its 2014 Chevy Spark EV. In fact, the company appears to have built an "electric" car in more ways than one.
First off, the 2014 Spark, which is a spin on the gasoline version of the Spark, packs quite a punch. The car generates 400 pound-feet of torque and 130 horsepower, which enables it to accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in as little as 8.0 seconds. Let's just say that its power is generating a lot of buzz as it's turning the corner on the EV market.
The initial reviews are pretty glowing, as Consumer Reports has gone so far as to say that the Spark is shattering the reputation of electric cars as being anemic and inept. In fact, it said that the Spark was "one of the most enjoyable electric cars we've driven." Overall, reviews suggest that the Spark EV is far better than the gasoline version, which Consumer Reports had called "slow, noisy, and stiff."
Best of all for consumers, the Spark EV starts at just $27,495 before incentives, which is less than the comparable Nissan Leaf. Further, the Spark gets 119 MPG equivalent and costs consumers just $0.84 for the first 25 miles driven, which would rank it among the cheapest cars to drive. That could save consumers more than $9,000 over the course of five years based on the 2013 average of 23 MPG and at current gas prices. However, the drawback is that its range is just 82 miles, though it can be recharged in as little as 20 minutes using a special charging accessory.
While not as sleek and luxurious as a Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ) Model S, the more budget-friendly Spark EV does beat the Model S on fuel economy, as the 60 kW-hr battery pack version will cost upwards of $70,000 yet delivers only 95 MPGe, though its range is much better at 208 miles. Other than styling, the biggest difference between the two really is the battery.
The Spark EV packs a pretty hefty battery, which weighs in at 560 pounds. However, that's a lightweight compared with the Model S battery pack, which is estimated to be in excess of 1,000 pounds. That extra weight has improved the range of the Model S, though it does cause a weight problem, which is one reason Tesla chose to use liberal amounts of aluminum to offset the extra weight. As long as the commute is short, the Spark EV is the better option for consumers looking to save green while going green.
Early indications are that Chevy has something special on its hands, which, when combined with the Volt, puts its offerings on par with its greener rivals Toyota (NYSE: TM ) and Ford (NYSE: F ) . It's a good space to be in these days as Toyota, which makes the popular Prius, saw its July sales surge 40% over last year. However, it's a space that demands performance, which is something that Ford found out the hard way when its C-MAX was recently found not to deliver the estimated MPG that was the main draw for its customers. That being said, Ford's hybrid sales were still strong as its product lineup, which includes the C-MAX and Focus, drove a 32% sales jump this past July.
This is why GM it still has a lot of work to do, as its Volt has largely underwhelmed in the marketplace. This past July GM sold only 1,788 Volts, which is well short of its monthly goal of 2,000 to 3,000 Volts. The company needs a late surge just to stay flat with last year's sales. It's this uninspiring sales volume that's behind the company's recent decision to add a $5,000 incentive on top of the $7,500 government credit. Clearly, GM is hoping that the Spark can well, spark the sales of its greener cars. The early signs, at least from a performance perspective, is that the Spark has the potential to do just that.
The question that remains to be answered is if this development will crush chief rival Ford. You might not know this, but one of the secrets to its success is how Ford has repositioned its sales mix toward more fuel-efficient cars. That is just one of Ford's secrets. To see the rest of the list, The Motley Fool has created a special free report entitled, "5 Secrets to Ford's Future."