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Chevy adds some electricity to EV pitch

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Few people think of electric vehicles as fun to drive. That's partly because automakers have never pitched them as such.

Most EV marketing touts the environmental attributes of emission-free driving, the fuel cost savings or the whiz-bang digital gauges that let the driver check the remaining range or find a charging station.

The head-snapping torque and a quiet, peppy ride that most EVs offer usually are afterthoughts, or ignored entirely.

Chevrolet is out to change that with a new campaign for the just-launched Spark EV, which is being sold only in the green-friendly markets of California and Oregon.

A new online video, shown below, boldly declares that the car's 400 pounds-feet of torque are "more than a Ferrari 458 Italia." The 30-second spot shows the minicar zooming through a gleaming white test facility at the speed of light.

"A car powered by electricity, that moves like electricity," the voice-over intones.

The Spark EV has some gaudy numbers to back up the big talk. It goes 0 to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, faster than the Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf, GM says.

During a test drive at the media launch here, the car returned ample torque even when already zipping along at highway speeds. In a word, it's fun.

"We think the fun-to-drive element is an area for us to differentiate ourselves," said Sam Basile, executive chief engineer for GM's global minicars and emerging-market vehicles.

Chevy's fun-focused Spark EV campaign may do little to change Americans' impression of EVs as glorified golf carts. GM expects to sell the car in low volumes, so the marketing budget is relatively skimpy.

But the emphasis on the actual driving part of EV driving is long overdue.

You can reach Mike Colias at autonews@crain.com

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