Biographical / Historical
The General Motors EV1 is considered one of the most technologically advanced vehicles produced in the twentieth century and was the most energy-efficient car in the world at the time of its premiere. Manufactured for the consumer market by GM in 1997, EV1 featured many engineering innovations in aerodynamics, electric drive systems, electronic controls, and hydraulic braking, and was propelled by a rechargeable lead-acid battery pack, producing zero emissions. It was issued twenty-three patents for its advanced features, as well as winning several awards and competitions, including the electric vehicle world land speed record in 1994.
In early 1990, partly based on a boast by departing president of GM Roger Smith that electric vehicle technology was a reality, the state of California mandated that the major auto makers produce two percent of their vehicles emissions-free by 1998. Between 1990, when the barely-functional prototype car Impact debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and 1994, when a fleet of fifty Impacts were premiered across the nation in the prEView Drive Program, a team of engineers worked on design, manufacture, and proof of concept vehicles that would eventually develop into the EV1: the first zero-emissions car to be released to consumers. The car's components were manufactured in several stages and locations: the assembly plant was in the Craft Centre in Lansing, Michigan; the motors were produced by Delco Remy in Anderson, Indiana; the battery pack, consisting of thirty-two 10-volt lead-acid batteries was produced by Delco Remy at their plant in Muncie, Indiana; and the power inverter and magnetic battery charger were constructed by Hughes Aircraft in Torrence, California.The finished car emitted zero pollutants, could accelerate from 0-60 mph in eight seconds, and had a range of eighty miles between charges. During 1995, the manufacturing process was refined, and the EV1 was announced in 1996 at both the Los Angeles and Detroit Auto Shows. The following year it became available to consumers through the Saturn division of GM marketing. However, due to concerns about parts and maintenance for the life of the car, GM only offered it on three-year lease programs, never for sale outright.
Though the EV1 did relatively well in the California and Arizona markets its first year, the 1999 EV1 Generation II showed a significant decline in consumer interest. The lease-only option was not appealing to many, and the limited range of the car, combined with a lack of publicly available charging stations, was a significant deterrent. Despite initial plans to expand the fleet of EVs by producing an S10 pickup truck with the new technology, and enthusiastic support from EV1's small but loyal customer base, GM stopped production on EVs altogether before the year 2000. When the last lease ran out in 2003, the fleet was recalled into storage, and except for a few that were donated to museums and universities for engineering programs and design study, the remaining EV1 vehicles were crushed and recycled in 2005.
The legacy of the EV1 remains in most of the hybrid fuel-electric vehicles and fuel-cell technology produced in the twenty-first century. It vaulted General Motors into the lead for development of advanced technology vehicles, beginning the long and ongoing effort to reduce US dependence on foreign oil as well as addressing the environmental issues caused by gasoline-powered engines.