Real-World Test Shows Chevy Spark EV Has Substantially More Range Than Nissan LEAF @ 62 mph (w/video)

AUG 8 2013 BY MARK KANE 96

A recently published test by Tony Williams indicates that the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV has at least 10% more range than the Nissan LEAF at a steady 62 mph.

It should be noted that the Nissan LEAF has a 75 mile EPA range rating, while the Chevy Spark EV is at 82 miles.

This test was conducted on an 80-mile loop through San Diego at 100km/h ground speed (62mph).

In the video description, we can read:

“It did very well in comparison to the Nissan LEAFs that have been tested on the same course.”

Of course, both vehicles are wildly different, but the Spark EV does have a lower capacity battery pack – 21.3 kWh  vs. 24 kWh in LEAF – so this real-world test-loop result is interesting and shows that perhaps the Spark EV is more ideally suited to racking up the range miles at highway speeds.

Tony earlier did a 2013 v 2012 Nissan LEAF range test, that report can be found here.

Test results part 1

Test results part 1

Test results part 2

Test results part 2

Tony Williams via MyNissanLEAF

Categories: Chevrolet, Nissan

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96 Comments on "Real-World Test Shows Chevy Spark EV Has Substantially More Range Than Nissan LEAF @ 62 mph (w/video)"

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Nice work Tony! And thanks for reporting it Mark.

I am impressed with the range for the pack size. Did you get to do any driving other than constant 100 kph? I would like to hear your impressions on performance and handling compared to the LEAF and RAV4 EV.

Minor: per some GM blog it appears the capacity is 21.4 (vs 21.3).

5miles/kWh via this picture from the video:

92.8miles divided by 5miles/kWh = 18.56 kWh used
18.56/21.4 = 86.7%

Good catch Scott.
Looks like a lot more kwh’s used than we thought.

Doesn’t the Spark have a readout on kwh’s used??????

Either that or the battery pack is bigger than is being advertised – or perhaps the battery pack has some bonus capacity when new that goes away after a short time after the pack is broken in…

Either way – good result for GM here. Too bad it’s a compliance car.

All EVs sold in CA are compliance cars. GM claims the Spark EV is more, and considering that it was developed in-house compared to most compliance-only cars I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. But they are going to have to start marketing the little beast, and people are going to have to respond with purchases, otherwise it could end up being a small ripple lost in a big pond.

Not compliance cars:

Mitsubishi iMiev (30,000 sold around the world)
Tesla Model S (15,000 sold)
Coda (less than 100 sold), defunct

GM vehicles are NOT compliance cars! The Volt is sold worldwide ( in Australia as the Holden Volt and in Europe as the Ampera). The Spark is a worldwide car already, so its EV version will follow. The Japanese are the ones who need to comply because California is their biggest source of idiotic customers. If they cannot sell more in California, they will cry!!!

You are sadly misinformed. If GM wants to continue to sell profitable oil burning cars in California, they will comply with California Air Resources Board – Zero Emissions Vehicle mandates, “CARB-ZEV”. “Very Large Manufacturers” (except Nissan) are pretty much just supplying the absolute minimum “compliance vehicle” for California for model years 2012-2014: – Chrysler/Fiat – 500e – strict compliance, very publically dislike EVs and recently claimed they won’t likely jump in the real EV market (like Nissan, Renault, Tesla) for ten years!!! – Ford – Focus EV – sold in limited volume anywhere, now also manufactured in Europe! – Honda – Fit EV – strict compliance, lease only, to be crushed at completion, 1100 in CARB states – Nissan – LEAF – 70,000 sold worldwide – Toyota – Rav4 EV – strict compliance, California only, 2600 leased and sold. No crusher! – GM Chevrolet – Spark EV, only sold in two CARB compliance states in extremely limited volume For 2015 and beyond, the following companies are added to the CARB-ZEV list: “BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen must comply with the new requirements. Four additional manufacturers would also be required to comply… Read more »

Are you leaving out BMW? BMW ActiveE is a “compliance/test” car for the upcoming i3. I have one, it’s not so efficient but the i3 will be! And not for compliance either! I do have a FitEV also, not so happy it’ll go to the crusher after my run with it, it’s a great car

>>>> Robert O, August 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm:
Are you leaving out BMW? BMW ActiveE is a “compliance/test” car for the upcoming i3. <<<<

BMW is mentioned above, and they were only recently added to the compliance list, which the i3 will do.

The MiniE or ActiveE are not compliance cars, since BMW was not required to comply with CARB-ZEV then.

I dint drive the car at all. It was a very antiseptic 100km drive, intended to answer only one question.

Wow, 97 miles. So if they double the size, they could have a 200mile AER Telsa Bluestar fighter.

Well, yeah, but I would hope it would be in a more attractive car. There’s no way a Spark competes with a Tesla.

I would like something in between. I find the Spark a bit exotic and the Tesla a bit bland. Spark too small, Tesla too big. I guess i’m looking for the Goldilocks-zone 🙂

I understand “eye of the beholder” and all, so take these comments with a grain of kosher salt.

The model s is most often aesthetically compared to the Jag XF (rear end) and the Maserati Quattroporte (front end). I would categorize those competitors as at least mildly exotic. Not Ferrari, Lambo, Porsche, Viper level, but the next tier down. However I cannot find a measure to rate the Spark aesthetics on the level of the mentioned cars.

I might not be following your thought process, so help me out.

To me the Spark screams “sporty Asian design for young folks”
The Tesla murmurs “boring sedan for older folks”

I think I’d like something in between, which to me, would be something like the Chevrolet Tru 140S

Not too young, too old, too big, but may be a bit small. I think I’d like it to be at least as big as my Volt. Not something Miata size.


True 140 K Dawg,
Great choice.
(3D, 3D, hint hint, Co-ax G/B)

That depends what is the purpose of buying a vehicle. If you want to save money and burn no gas, buy a Spark. The Tesla is for those who can afford a Cadillac but don’t want to burn gas (until Cadillac produces its own performance BEV).

It’s a shame it’s not that simple…the energy needed to move more weight is not linear.

Yes, it would probably need to be a bit more, plus you want some comfort room. However there were 3 people in the car, so not sure how much they weighed.

The weight is 200kg / 440 pounds of crew and cargo, the same as the three Nissan LEAFs tested on this course.

Driving a car at constant highway speed, range has almost nothing to do with weight (elevation change excluded) and almost everything to do with aerodynamic drag (not Cd which is non-dimentional). Newton could elaborate more for me.

Conversely, city driving range is strongly related to weight and regen as the change in speeds at low average speed dominate the energy usage.

According to basic physics, the energy needed to move more weight is exactly linear. The energy to move a bigger car may not be linear as larger cars bring in other factors like additional rolling resistance and wind resistance.

If this is GM’s answer to the Tesla Bluestar Gen III, it won’t end well for GM !!!!

The Spark EV is the best, because that Tesla “Bluestar” doesn’t exist! GM will have sold millions of Sparks and other EVs before Tesla can catch up!

Wow! That is surprising news. I honestly didn’t expect it to fair any better than the Leaf due to the EPA ratings. I understand the EPA ratings on the Leaf were an average of two tests using 80% and 100% charge. As such, I figured the Spark simply had an advantage on the EPA rating system. What’s more impressive is that this is done at 62 mph. Although 65 would be more interesting because that is where I usually the top speed I’m willing to go on the freeway if I’m trying to conserve battery range. So I’m thinking with the A/C running and travelling at 65 mph, the Spark EV would probably get 80 miles. Then the real question is, what is the typical buffer people would expect when planning a trip close to 80 miles? For me, I guess I wouldn’t plan to travel any more than 70 miles at a time between charging. Right now in my Leaf I usually don’t plan any more than 60 miles.

Can we please, pretty please, stop treating people like imbeciles and dispense with the “fuel bars” from EVs for good? Chevy, Nissan, I am looking at you. It is disgraceful, demeaning, and a bad manner.

I mean, if they were Swiss or Belgian made chocolate bars or even gold bars, ok then. 😉

But otherwise I need to see a kWh consumed (broken down into propulsion and secondary functions, i.e. HVAC), and a good-faith estimate, and when available, a measurement of kWh remaining in the battery (SoC).

I also need people to take a stoichiometry class (it is fun, really!) and pay attention to significant figures and the propagation of error.

You know if these cars had a 200-300 mile range no one would give a damn if one went a few miles short and for what reason.

I like having “fuel bars.” Why is that a problem? My previous car, a Toyota Prius, also had little fuel bars for the gas tank but did not tell me exactly how many gallons were in the tank.

I will agree, I would like more information available, such as how many Kwh are left in the battery. But I like the fuel bars as it gives me a very quick-glance way to see an overall percentage of what I had when I started vs. what I have now.


Bars are great for the quick glance at the dash, but it should be a requirement to show kWhs on a BEV.

So have you had conversations with non-tech people about their electric bill usage and kW vs kWh? Talked to them about how many kWhs it takes to charge and the overhead losses when charging (i.e. 85% or whatever)? Have you also discussed kWh per mile? Those conversations result in glossed over eyes. Bars are required but certainly with other supplemental information (point in time kW). I think this is in the spark and on the video.

I assume the Spark EV has an detailed energy screen you can access on the center stack display similar to the Volt, that shows kWh used. On my Volt, I first glance at the dashboard green battery segments to get the big picture, then when I want detailed energy info, look at the center stack.

I would also like KWH numbers. But I realize that I am an engineer who likes that stuff and understands it. Most people don’t.

Your old gas car didn’t have a ‘gallons’ read out did it? Just full, 1/2, 1/4, reserve. So they build EVs the same way.

When an EV can go 200-300 miles on a single charge, recharge in 5 minutes, and there is a recharge station on every street corner, accurate fuel gauges won’t be needed.

Until then, the driver needs all the help he can get.

There are multiple “charge stations” on every corner and in every home. They are called “outlets”.

Not so for gasoline ! Unless you live at a gas station, getting fuel involves moving the car. Getting electricity is as easy as charging your smartphones and laptops.

Uh, those “outlets” don’t recharge electric vehicles in five minutes… Not even Tesla (yet).

The 2013 Leaf also reports battery charge %. The bars on the leaf are misleading because the top bar counts for twice the capacity as the other bars. I wish they would report kWh remaining. With mi/kWh being reported, it’s much easier to gauge remaining range if you knew kWh remaining. And it would also account for battery degradation.

Before the Spark EV came out, I thought it was going to flop. I thought it was going to be an over-priced econobox EV with meh performance. But they built a peppy little fun torque-monster that they are selling for a very low price. Well done, GM. The biggest problem with this car is that it is only available in a couple states. 🙁

Compliance car.
=> Limited numbers.
=> Manufacturer can take loss.
=> I have no clue what it really costs to make.
=> I can’t be impressed by it.

There are no limited numbers for the Spark EV just limited markets.

And they are going to sell it in Canada and South Korea so it is not just a ZEV market car.

“Manufacturer can take loss.” and “I have no clue what it really costs to make.” are true for EVERY CAR so I’m not sure what the point is.

The Spark is not a compliance car, since there are millions around the world already as gas cars. Making an EV version is easier than building a new car.

Only the imports are making compliance cars because without those sales, California will limit the sales of the gas cars. And California is the biggest source of idiotic import buyers.

Again, you appear to be spamming the site with your misinformation. The Spark EV is a product of the Republic of South Korea, by the way. It is based entirely on a Korean brand car that has been sold there for some time. It is imported to the USA (California and Oregon) from South Korea by GM.

The only current manufacturer required to comply with CARB-ZEV that exceeds the limits without question is “import” manufacturer Nissan. GM has a lot of future “imported” Spark EV sales to be completed (only about 200 so far) to be able to meet the CARB-ZEV threshold of 0.79% of car sales.

The spark is a success in my book- except for one thing. The 3.3 kw on board charger is a real and unnecessary limit. For me here in Los Angeles this will likely be the deciding factor against the car. There are just too many situations where I need to get the “tank” up to 80 or 100% in a time frame that will not be possible with such a small charger. Everyone has big hopes for dc charging and yes that network will grow and spark will be able to charge this way. However, this kind of charging will cost and really the majority of charging needs to happen in the home. At this point, unless this is in fact a compliance car chevy is shooting itself in the foot by not supplying at last a 6.6 kw charger. On all of these cars I’d argue for a 10 or more kw charger on board. More than dc charging this would change the game because home charge times will become much shorter. The other comment I have is that Chevy is not marketing this car. There are few available and dealers barely care to make a return phone call… Read more »

Something that worries me about this is that I have a huge amount of play as a designer/engineer/developer in deciding where to put the low range warning light and where I even calibrate 0 miles. Not only am I worried about getting the customer to their destination, but I’m worried about the lifespan of the battery, and forcing the customer not to bottom out their battery. In fact, if I want good battery life, I want my customer to go below 20% charge AS RARELY AS POSSIBLE.

So, it’s never an apples to apples comparison with regard to range.

What’s a little more empirical is simply measuring the Joules I suck put into the motor over X miles on a certain course. Sure, I can fudge it, but then I’m lying. There’s no judgement, like in range. So, what matters to me is kWh/mile.

So isn’t there a readout on kwh used??

That would be an interesting number as our GM rep WOT over at GM-Volt said the Spark uses 81% of its pack for a 17.3 kwh usable.
If you look at Scotts calc up top here it looks like Spark used 18.6 kwh for a very healthy 87% DOD.

Too bad he didn’t run the comparison with a 2013 Model S. That would be a fairer comparison, both in terms of price and weight per kWh.

What? Comparing the $27K Spark EV to the $70K Model S is a more fair comparison than the Leaf? LOL.

Leaf Model S…not Tesla.

That makes much more sense! 🙂

Call it a Leaf S not Model S to avoid confusion, please.

One of the 2013 Nissan LEAFs was in fact an “S”. It also went 81 miles.

The 2013 Leaf went 81? I did not see that in yor reports on the Leaf. If so that is an improvement from my 2011. Knowing how far the 2013 will go would help me to inform potential buyers like my neighbor who considering on but sure the car will make her daily trip. What do you think a 2013 would get for range at 65 mph? Also, what kind of range have been getting on your Rav4?

Wow, that was poorly written! Typing questions early the morning is not a good idea.

The 2011 – 2012 LEAF has been tested to 88-89 miles and the 2013 LEAF to 81 miles with these parameters:

*ambient temperature 70F to 85F (21C – 30C)
*battery temperature 70F or above (21C)
*100km/h ground speed (62mph)
*dry, hard surface road
*no significant wind
*no cabin heater or cabin air conditioner
*windows up
*crew plus cargo of 200kg / 440 pounds, +/- 10%
*tire pressures at auto manufacturer’s recommendation

I wonder if he’s tested that RAV4-EV? That would be very interesting.


@ Nelson: I’d be curious as well. The RAV has an EPA range of 103. I’ve driven mine at about 65MPH for 130 miles and it still had 18 mile range still showing. A number of RAV owners report regularly going 150 miles (apparently the best mark is a bit over 175 miles, but I bet that was driven cautiously). It’d be good to test the RAV on this loop.

I own a Rav4 EV, so yes, I have extensively tested it. At 100km/hr ground speed, the Rav4 EV will consume about 286 wattHours per mile (3.5 miles per kWh). With 41.8kWh available (usable) when the car is new (no degradation), the range is 3.5 * 41.8 = 146 miles.

There is the answer I was looking for. 146! How reliable has it been for you lately? I know you had some problems.

Not too bad… Several missed charge events, one that left me stranded. I have an arbitrated hearing to “Lemon Law” my Rav4 EV on Oct 1, 2013.

It gets old, believe me.

He has run the same look with the a 2013 LEAF S. It came in between the 2013 LEAF SL and 2012 LEAF SL shown in the results above.

The 17″ wheels on the ’13 SL compared to the 16″ wheels are the most likely culprit behind it’s lower results compared to the other vehicles.

I bet with a few more aero tweaks the LEAF could do significantly better on a highway test – just outfit it with some 15″ aero dynamic wheels and tightening up the fender gaps (the stock LEAF has SUV-like tire/fender clearance) would go a long way.

s/look/route/ in my first sentence above. Link to Tony’s ’13 LEAF S test:

Here’s the other LEAF test, “side by side” with a 2012 and 2013.

Pretty ridiculous statement there, Warren.

You don’t have to compare Model S to everything else EV. It is a big-battery-BEV. Own market segment and needs to stay out of “every EV conversation on the planet”. It’s becoming like an unwelcome house guest these days. Congrats to GM on doing a great job with the Spark EV in its own right. Too bad it isn’t made in America but does have some USA-sourced parts (battery, motor).

I would love to see how many energy from the wall it takes to charge a Spark EV (and a LEAF) from empty to 100%. Charging efficiency should be very similar between cars so it would give you a better idea of actual usable capacity. Failing that, you would get a real efficiency number from wall to wheel which is what really matters.

I think most people are much more concerned about range than efficiency. Otherwise the not very efficient Tesla wouldn’t be the hottest item in the EV world right now.

125% of what is used. Just charge it once using a Kill-A-Watt meter and then someone can publish that.

Charger efficiency is a factor of charging speed (since all the overhead loads are generally constant, like TMS) and charger efficiency. Battery voltage is a big factor, also. Cold batteries charge slower, and vice versa.

A new condition LEAF battery will typically take 24kWh – 25kWh at 84% charger efficiency (240 volts * 16 amps).

The real question here is why the 2013 Leaf did about 10% worse than the 2012 Leaf.

I agree!!! I also want to know why the Spark can best it’s EPA rating by a good margin, and Nissa barely makes it…

You are looking at calculated range. The actual range for the 2013 was one tenth mile better…essentially identical.

@ Warren: Sorry, but you lost me. The whole issue here IS calculated range — which of course in this article is based upon actual range plus a calculation of how much further it could still go. Had they driven all the cars until they stopped, then we could know their respective actual ranges, but they did not do that, and so we need to use the author’s calculations of how much further it appeared it could go to see what the calculated range is. For all I know, the 2012 and 2013 may have identical actual ranges but the 2013 is simply more conservative by scaring the driver into thinking the battery was empty when in fact it was not.

(In my own test in that regard, I found that my 2011 Leaf could travel at least 7 miles beyond “2 mile” range / i.e., when the range estimate disappears — and I was told by someone with an identical car that he took his 14 miles beyond “2 mile” range before it actually stopped.)

Oh! OK. I find all this OEM turtles/butterflies/trees stuff pointlessly confusing. The important information, for me, is that the Spark kicks the Leaf’s butt. It has less frontal area, and is over 300 pounds lighter than the Leaf.

The BMW i3 is over 300 pounds lighter than the Spark and runs taller, skinnier tires. It should do over 100 miles on Tony’s test run.

At a constant speed of 60 mph the weight really doesn’t matter much. It will matter in stop and go driving a lot, but not really in Tony’s test conditions. I would suspect it will have very similar results.

Lower rolling resistance from lighter weight and from taller, narrower tires, plus lower aero drag of narrower tires will help at highway speeds. Can’t wait to see if my hunch is right.

It will be fun to test the i3, but we have about a year before it arrives on the west coast.


I have ran the LEAF to “turtle mode” and completely dead more times than anybody I know. I am imminently qualified to predict the range of the LEAF. My work in this regard is well known among LEAF owners.

For the Spark EV, it already went far longer than the LEAF, so whether it could go 3 more miles, or 5 more, or none at all, there’s no question in my mind that it very easily will beat the LEAF for highway range.


The 2013 LEAF has 40% less rare earth metals in the motor than the 2012, plus a number of other changes.

It was tuned to “game the Japan version of EPA”, and they did that very well. The 2012 was rated at 200 km (124 miles), to 228km. I guarantee that you aren’t going down any freeway for 124 or more miles in a LEAF !!!!!

We have found that the 2011-2012 LEAF will drive 88-89 miles to turtle when new at 100km/hr. This has been tested more times than I can to remember. The 2013, in two such tests, went only 81 miles “calculated”. That simply means that when the cars got below 2kWh stored energy (as measured from the vehicle’s CAN bus), I calculate that 1.3kWh usable is remaining. At 4 miles per kWh that the LEAF drives at 65mph indicated, that is 4 * 1.3 = 5.2 miles.

Wow… first it was Consumers Reports raving about how much better it drove and performed than they counted on, now we see how impressive its highway range is compared to the top selling EV in a test run by a leading LEAF community member who is by no means on GM’s payroll, far from it.

Now let’s hope GM takes notice how good this little pocket rocket is and begins to get serious about it. Start running that slick commercial on television in CA and OR and let’s get sales rolling to a momentum that pushes open the doors to markets in other states.

Thanks Tony and Mark for a great report. I would be interested to see Focus Electric, Fit EV, and Fiat 500e numbers for the same course. EPA numbers tend to emphasize the regen efficiency of stop and go driving, while this test really looks at the efficiency of drive train and aerodynamics. For freeway speed commuters, your result is more meaningful.

If somebody has any of these vehicles in NEW condition, I’ll be happy to do the test.

Just drop me a line at:

Has anyone run the Volt on this same test?

You’re welcome to. I publish all the particulars so that anybody can copy it.

In the video it looks like there was very good weather conditions, was the Leaf test done at same conditions? Best test would be to drive them all together.


IIRC, Tony couldn’t use cruise control on the ’13 Leaf, since the model he used didn’t have one.

More importantly, we should all treat these as one test by an EV enthusiast. Not a real representation of “real world” – nobody drives at 62 mph for so many miles in the real world.

I’d put more weight on the EPA numbers of 84 for Leaf (and Spark ?) as being more representative of real world conditions (except in cold weather).

Seriously, you are going to go with that reasoning?!?

Hard core GM-haters and LEAFers are masters of denial, so don’t hold your breath hoping for a realization of what the truth is.

Yeah, this is the same guy that tried to bash my decision to get a spark ev in another thread. We had slight back and forth on Leaf vs. Spark EV range. I feel vindicated. 🙂

I disagree. I spend a lot of time in a car, and frequently want to drive long distances. I could Just-Drive-The-Prius(TM), except I don’t like burning oil, nor do I have one.

Or, I could know how far my vehicle travels at the posted 65mph speed limit, where a typical car actually travels 100km/hr ground speed due to speedometer error. The Spark EV is unique in having virtually no error between indicated speed and ground speed.

It would be beyond rare when I would be driving city surface streets for 100 miles. But, freeways at steady speeds, I do that daily.

Both the steady speed range and the composite EPA data are useful, depending on where you are driving that day.

The steady state rates published by a lab (was that Rocky mountain, I forget) – was quite different from your experience.

The reason why we rely on EPA or some other lab tests is that they are way better controlled.

Yes, thanks for pointing that out. Again, I disagree with your statement as we already know that (if we are talking about the same test) the one LEAF tested was degraded already. Not much “better controlled”. But, you seem to want to paint me as a hack, and somehow disprove something. You make these points based on your zero publically scutinized testing, by the way. There are well done government / university studies that match our data perfectly, which is odd that you didn’t mention that. I’m not sure what your motivation is (because the LEAF got smoked?) but I hope you’ll agree that these test were, in fact, “better controlled” than the one you may be referring to: Energy from the wall from dead to 100%: 25.414 kWh Energy from the onboard charger to battery: 22.031 kWh (86.6% charger efficiency) Energy from the battery during discharge: 21.381 kWh (our “21kWh useable” at 70F) But, if you like EPA type data, here it is for the LEAF around the world… The same car. Like car charging standards, the best thing is so many to chose from: 124 miles = 200km Japan “EPA” rating for 2011-2012 142 miles =… Read more »

The 2013 LEAF-SL we tested did, in fact, have cruise control and we did use it. The 2013 LEAF-S did not, yet both cars finished in substantially the same range.

Tony, great job with the test. It sounded like you had 3 people in the Spark too. “are we there yet?” from the back seat?

Yes, my 59 pound daughter. She also went with me last year during BC2BC in my LEAF.

big automakers can not make 300 range car since people would be dropping gas cars as crazy so only tesla seams legitimate, the tesla chief said if they make enough money on s and x they will start making cheap 300 miles EVs for the masses

Right now, Tesla is pulling 25% margins on Model S, and have been profitable the last several quarters. They will make a Model X next, and then a Model E car and compact SUV starting 2016-2017 with a 200 mile range. It will probably sell for $35k-$50k fully equipped.

After that, there will be fourth generation even cheaper car for the masses.