Tuesday, May 5, 2015

First of all...

I got my Chevy Spark EV on Apr. 22, 2015. For numerologists out there, 4 = 2 + 2. It is my first electric car, first new car, first car I ever lease, first "tiny" car, first car made in Korea, and probably lots of other firsts as well (virgin at many levels). I did not arrive at the decision to lease it lightly. I went through many iterations of cost analysis. Ultimately, it was found to be more economical than other options.

My Prius battery finally gave up its ghost at 149,750 miles (or there abouts). If the car was under 10 years old, it would've been covered under warranty (10 year / 150,000 miles). Alas, car is 2003 model (13 years old). Dealer wanted almost $3600 with 1 year warranty on the battery. 1 year for new battery?!?! $3600 (actually, $2500 with tax) for 2.5kWh battery?!?! You gotta be kidding me. I looked around for other options. Several battery re-builders were offering up to 3 year warranty at same cost as the dealer. 13 year old cars with 150K miles typically sell for about $3600. That means dead battery on Prius makes it pretty much worthless.

Then I read about special lease for the Chevy Spark EV. For $139/mo with no out of pocket cost, you too can be a proud driver of Chevy Spark EV lease. I always thought lease is waste of money; you don't really own it. I also dislike (hate?) GM for the bankruptcy and bailout that prevented potential creative destruction. Who knows? Tesla could've taken GM's place. But I can't continue to drive Chevy Astro, the best practical minivan in existence, that gets 15 MPG or the F350 truck that gets 7 MPG on lucky day. Knowing that dead battery on out of warranty Prius make it pretty much worthless, I investigated dead battery scenario on Spark EV.


Spark EV has 19 kWh battery, slightly less than Nissan Leaf. Leaf battery is about $5500, so I suspect Spark EV battery will cost about that much also. It comes with 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty. Assuming I stick to the miles / year, how much does 8 year old used sub-compact car cost? Why it costs less than $5500! So if I were to buy it, it would be worthless after 8 years when (if?) battery dies. Total purchase price if paid in full is roughly

+$26000 (MSRP)
+$3000 (tax, docs, etc)
-$7500 (federal tax credit, which I may not qualify)
-$2500 (CA rebate for EV)
-$1000 (rebate from GM for buying Spark EV in Apr. 2015)
= $18000

Amortized over 8 years (96 months), that works out to $188/mo. But the battery may last a bit more. Let's say 10 years. That's $150/mo.

Lease is only $139, but you still pay taxes and DMV fees. I estimated to be $150/mo and $200 for DMV fees. I wasn't far off. It came to $149/mo and about $300 for CA DMV. Total due at drive off was about $450 (thank you, credit card!). It's comparable to purchase, assuming 10 year battery life. And the lease is 39 months (3.25 years).

In 3.25 years, I'm hoping there will be better cars, such as Chevy Bolt, Tesla 3, and who knows how much better Nissan Leaf and other EVs may become. There's also talk of hydrogen and fuel cell cars. Prius is talking about going to 60+ MPG. Although I would be more comfortable with 5 year wait for the new tech cars to work out the kinks, 3.25 years may be barely enough. Lease is a better option.


Then there's the cost comparison to used car or even fixing the Prius. Let's assume either will cost $3600. One can certainly find 12 year old used car that gets 30MPG for around $3600 if searched deep enough. Miles driven will be 30000 miles, same as lease miles. Let's also assume there's zero repair, but one needs maintenance on gas engine, such as oil change, at roughly dealer cost. One also needs gas.

+$3600 (Prius repair or buy a used car that gets 30 MPG)
+$50 / 5000 miles * 30000 miles = $300 (every 5000 miles)
+$150 / 15000 miles * 30000 miles - $50 = $250 (every 15000 miles-5000 miles maintenance)
+$300 / 30000 miles * 30000 miles - $150 = $150 (every 30000 mile-15000 miles maintenance)
+$3.5/gallon / 45 MPG * 30000 miles = $2333
= $6633

Remember that this assumes zero repairs for 3 years, which is not likely for 12 year old car (or 15 year old car). Still, I'm not likely to pay dealer prices for maintenance and repair on such old car, so it could work out if I'm lucky. This also assumes Prius mileage of 45 MPG. Using 30 MPG of Corolla, I get $3500 for gas for a total of $7800.

Let's see how the lease works out. Being an electric car, there's really no maintenance to speak of other than tire rotation; even if there were, 2 years is included for free. I pay $0.17/kWh for electricity at home. It used to be $0.14/kWh in 2014, so it went up 21% in a year! If I'm a heavy user, I'll pay a whole lot more, but since this is my blog, let's use $0.17/kWh. But I may not always charge at home. Sometimes, I may need to charge at public charging stations at exorbitant prices ($0.49/kWh). Let's assume $0.20/kWh for electricity on average. Who knows? I might get solar and get it for free (not really, but it's nice to dream about free lunch). Let's also assume 3.75 miles / kWh is used; I will cover this in later blog; I actually get 4 miles/kWh with new battery.

+$300 (DMV)
+$150/mo * 39 mo =  $5850 (lease payments)
+0 (maintenance, which is only tire rotation, is included in the lease)
+$0.20/kWh * 30000 miles / 3.75 miles/kWh = $1600 (electricity is not free, even for EV)
-$2500 (CA rebate)
= $5250

Compared to fixing the Prius, I'm saving almost $1400! Compared to buying a trouble free used car, I'm saving $2550! Wow, that is great! I'll take it!!!!!!

But not so fast. Because Spark EV is new compared to old Prius and used car, insurance is higher. In my case, it's almost $400 per year more than the old Prius. In 3 years, that wipes out the savings to just $1400 - $400 * 3.25 = $100. As approximations go, and if you consider higher cost of registering a new car, I may lose some money, but probably not much. Any savings may be modest. Oh well, it'll pay for some happy meals.


First, let me say that I love my Astro van. Imagine Toby Keith's song, "I love this bar", but sing it as "I love this van". It's yet another reason to hate GM for killing this very practical vehicle.

Now let's compare to continuing to drive the Chevy Astro at 15 MPG. Forget the F350; I might as well burn $100 bills in BBQ pit. Car is paid for, so costs are gas and maintenance. As before, let's assume repair free, although it may need some repairs soon.

+$50 / 5000 miles * 30000 miles = $300 (every 5000 miles)
+$150 / 15000 miles * 30000 miles - $50 = $250 (every 15000 miles-5000 miles maintenance)
+$300 / 30000 miles * 30000 miles - $150 = $150 (every 30000 mile-15000 miles maintenance)
+$3.5/gallon / 15 MPG * 30000 miles = $7000
= $7700

But insurance is much cheaper. Since I'll only get liability for such old car, it's about $1000 less than Spark EV lease. So the total savings by leasing Spark EV is

+$7700 (Astro total cost)
-$1000 * 3.25 (Astro insurance savings)
-$5250 (SparkEV total cost)
= -$800 (Total savings -- IT'S A LOSS!)

CRAP! I'm going to be out $800 by taking the lease. But it gets worse, because I still have to pay Astro insurance even with the lease and higher registration cost. I can't live without my Astro (woof, woof!) Well that sucks. But then driving the Astro daily will increase wear and tear and potentially high cost repair (dog house is a bitch to work on). So the choices are

A) drive the Astro with no AC (broken), risk of it breaking down and losing it, but very comfortable and has lots of room and save more than $800

B) take the plunge into EV, with AC, new car smell, save my beloved Astro for special occasions.

Another issue is that CA rebate can only be used twice. That's fine, because there's no guarantee that it will still be around after 3.25 years. Use it or lose it, I might as well use it at least once.

I love my Astro too much to waste it on trivial trips. I pulled the trigger on leasing the Chevy Spark EV. I'm very glad I did (so far).

My two foster dogs in front of the car


  1. Is your Spark an LT1 or LT2? I read that the cheap lease was only on the LT1

    1. It's 1LT. Dealer offered same lease deal on 2LT but with higher residual. I decided to take 1LT in case I decide to keep the car after lease. It's looking more and more like I'll keep it after lease, especially if Chevy decide to cancel SparkEV after Bolt release. Besides, vinyl seat on 2LT isn't all that appealing.

  2. Mine in a 2014 and the dcfc was only available on the 2LT. I am thinking of keeping mine as well after the lease is over unless Chevy keeps the car for the 2017 MY.

  3. This is very useful information as my wife and I are looking into doing the same thing. This however has really opened my eyes as to the budget and the way it works. Thank you for sharing this information as I know more people can use this when they are looking at finances and the rest, thanks for sharing it.

    Lonnie @ Viva Chevy

    1. Glad you find it useful. Deal I got is factory lease, and it's nothing special. Every SparkEV should qualify as such. But you can find much better deals, some as low as $10/mo in some circumstances after CA rebate. See http://ev-vin.blogspot.com

      After a year, I find that SparkEV is truly the top performer and great value. It outperforms all EV, including Tesla, in many ways when measured per battery cell basis.