UPDATE 4/27/2022: EV Resource has received the following statement from Kevin M. Kelly, Senior Director, Chevrolet Communications:
"Recent reports speculating that GM will no longer provide battery pack replacements for the Spark EV are incorrect. While we are currently experiencing a temporary disruption in the supply of new Spark EV packs, GM remains committed to providing replacement packs to Spark EV owners who need them in the future and will work with owners until we get the supply issues resolved."
It is unclear what this means regarding the timeline for expected battery packs. It is also unclear why multiple people within the company would have so clearly stated that battery packs were no longer being supported for the Spark EV. EV Resource has responded to Mr. Kelly with these questions and will update the situation as we learn more.
The Chevy Spark EV, unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2012, was General Motors’ first attempt at an all electric vehicle since the recall and destruction of the EV1 vehicles of the ‘90s. With an 82 mile EPA range, this small hatchback was a low volume compliance car targeted at metropolitan areas in CARB states. Even with that being the case, it was a vehicle option that provided tons of fun at an affordable price.
In many ways it was revolutionary. It was the first EV in North America to offer the CCS charging standard and in 2014 its electric motor provided more torque than a Ford Mustang GT of the same year. It has been a great entry level option in the years since it’s introduction, even in the used car market after GM discontinued it’s production in 2016 in favor of the Bolt EV.
But as all good things come to an end, the end for this piece of EV history is near.
No Factory Support
EV Resource has confirmed that GM will no longer be providing replacement battery packs for the Spark EV. This means that when the high-voltage (HV) battery fails, owners will have zero options to repair their car. None. Their vehicle will never drive again.
Parts departments at various Chevy dealerships seem to all agree as well. While they confirm that there used to be a part available (although backordered), as of April 7th, no more are available.
One GM representative, a district executive who wished to remain anonymous, said, “we are no longer going to supply that battery.” GM only had a select number of HV batteries stored for the Spark EV, and now that the supply has run out, there are no options for the vehicles. EV Resource has contacted multiple GM dealerships in Virginia, Maryland, Oregan, and California and spoken with workers in the parts departments, We have been told that the part number for the HV battery has changed multiple times, but at the bottom of the page they view for the most recent battery pack, it is showing discontinued, but that you can backlorder the part. In an attempt for clarification, we were told that in this case, "backorder" simply means to request the part, and doesn't mean that it is available. The personal experience of the author has taken this process one step further and he was told that the battery has in fact been discontinued and the vehicle will not be repaired. All other attempts by EV Resource for comments from the company were ignored.
Because of this decision by the company, GM has effectively killed all hope for the future of the Spark EV. As reports of HV battery pack failures are becoming more and more common within the Spark EV community, the hope of owners driving for many years to come is quickly dying as well.
Unlike the EV1, which you can still find a few examples of in museums, in a few years the only place you’ll likely find a Spark EV is the junkyard.
While hard data has been nearly impossible to gather related to the frequency of Spark EV battery failures, in addition to experiencing this myself, quite a number of other Spark EV owners have experienced this as well and shared their story publicly. However, only a few (since April 7th) have run into the situation highlighted.
So now, when the high voltage battery fails, owners who are still covered by the factory 8 year 100,000 mile warranty should consider themselves the lucky ones, but still won’t drive away with a working vehicle.
Vehicle owners are not given any option by the company to repair their car, but instead are offered buyback value from GM. In some cases, this offer is equal to the purchase price of the car, but that varies from state to state.
However, for owners of the earliest 2014 model year vehicles, who are coming up on the end of the warranty period, if their battery fails they will have a vehicle that will not be operable, and will not be repairable.
No Aftermarket Support
For some other older electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, early Tesla Roadster, and Tesla Model S, aftermarket companies have provided continued support for aging and failing battery packs. Companies like Gruber Motors and Fenix Power have been known to restore and even improve battery packs for these older EVs.
However, for a low volume and inexpensive car like the Spark EV, there is no value in a company providing aftermarket support.
YouTuber and owner of the Electrified Garage, Rich Benoit, expressed concern for the situation with the Spark EV saying, “if you go online and type in ‘Tesla battery pack’ you’re going to get quite a few results. But for the Spark EV, there’s nothing really there. This is a really, really tough scenario. This is so difficult, not many people have even bothered to take apart a Spark EV. It’s actually really sad.”
Spark EV Owners
What this ultimately means for current Spark EV owners is this:
Understandably, the Spark EV community has been shaken up since learning about the situation. Some members of the Spark EV Owners Facebook Group have been looking to sell their cars by selling to companies like Carvana, Carmax, Vroom, and others while the market is still hot for used EVs.
Members of the Facebook group, like Bob Mann, admitted to looking to trade up to a Bolt EV.
“With used prices so high,” he said, “my wife and I were thinking of selling our Spark EV to trade up to a new Bolt EV. In a discussion with Criswell Chevrolet (of MD), they said, 'if the battery had failed we wouldn't replace it. There are none available so we would buy the car back.' So, since the future of the Spark was in question, we sold it."
However, the situation isn’t as straightforward for everybody. Some Spark EV owners who bought the car because of it’s affordable price are finding themselves car shopping in a market that has inflated the price of electric vehicles due to low supply and high demand. This situation forces them to choose a more affordably priced gas powered car, even though it will cost them more in the long run due to fuel and maintenance costs.
The Worst Possible Scenario
Ultimately, the worst case situation would be that somebody who still has a car payment on their Spark EV ends up with a car that they can’t use… and can’t afford another car. What are they to do then? It’s heartbreaking to think about, but it could be a very realistic future for some should they decide to keep their Spark EV as long as possible.
EV Resource Point Of View
At this point, the Spark EV has a very limited future. With battery packs failing and no factory or aftermarket support, owners have very few options to avoid potential disaster.
As much as I loved my Spark EV, I am one of the lucky ones who will be getting a buy back under warranty. But others, hopefully not many, will be left in a far worse place. My only hope is that people learn about their car as soon as possible, and use that information to make the best informed decision for their life and family.
Zack Hurst is a Spark EV owner waiting on an official buy back offer from GM. His love for the Spark EV started almost immediately after purchase and his car will be missed.