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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Mythbusting: The truth about the GM EV1 | Hagerty Media

About halfway down the long hill leading to the General Motors Proving Ground test tracks in Milford, Michigan, it hit me that the electric concept car I was driving rolled on a cobbled-up show-car suspension and was armed with barely functional brakes. Uh-oh!
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/gm-ev1-true-inside-story/
87 REPLIES 87
hyperv6
Gearhead

There has been so many lies about this car and program. I was there when it was introduced at Detroit. It was leading edge tech but it was not ready for general public consumption. If GM had let these cars remain in the market long term it would not only have damaged GM’s future EV programs but it would have damaged EV products as a whole.

This was an advance program but they knew there was much to do yet. GM was able to learn much here and this program led to more advancements and the establishment of suppliers for the future products.

Too often GM would bring us advanced tech first but too often before there is enough tech to support it, the 8-6-4 Cadillac is a good example. Those at GM that limited this program were engineers that knew better.

Yet we have these hack like Michael Moore who have no clue about the other side of this and is just more involved about making himself a buck vs telling the truth.

This car was like the Mercury program was to the moon landing. It explored and tested systems and human reactions. It established contractors for need products in the future. What was learned here is what we are about to see released soon that we will be driving.
drjim
Detailer

One of the Engineers I worked with at DirecTV in Long Beach had one. I never got a ride in it, but he said he really liked it. It had adequate range for him to use as a commuter car, and it fulfilled that role very well for him.
61Rampy
Advanced Driver

When GM announced that EV1s could be leased, I put in an application. (I live in Phoenix) Didn't get the car, but I was able to take a short drive, thanks to a friend who worked at the Saturn dealer right next door to the Ford dealer I worked at. First thing I noticed was the silence when stopped. Second thing I noticed was the Monster torque!! I pushed the gas.. I mean accelerator pedal and would have done a smoky burnout, but the traction control kicked in. I was impressed! Wife and I considered a Hybrid Escape when they came out (2004??), but the fear of new technology and questionable resale value stopped us. I'm still old school, though, I like an engine that makes some noise. Excellent article, by the way.
hyperv6
Gearhead

I recall at Cobo Hall how GM had a short test track set up indoors. They were giving rides in what was claimed the first in show test drive. 

Several  years later I got to drive my first Volt. This time it was out in the cold Cleveland winter. It was quiet accept for all the snow hitting the inner fenders. 

Then I was presented with an opportunity to drive the Hydrogen powered Chevy. 

At that time I never imagined how far and fast this tech is moving. 

I too discovered the torque in the hydrogen car. I asked permission from the GM rep and he said have at it. 

I really don’t have issues with electric cars other than the lack of sound and smell of mechanical performance. Let’s face it Geddy Lee would never write Red Barchetta about a Tesla. 

DAY
Intermediate Driver

Now, if only there was a way to charge it at night (when most will be recharged) without using carbon based fuels! Wind and Sun don't do much at night. No way around it.
ELDee
Pit Crew

Here in Connecticut, and I'd guess in sunnier areas, folks use Solar panels coupled with batteries that store energy during the day, and transfer energy to vehicles at night.

Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

Why charge at night? Charge at work during the day and let it power your house at night.

But yes long term grid level storage is necessary.
spark123
Detailer

So your employer is supposed to subsidize your fuel?? Where is my free gas??
Air_and_Water
Detailer

There is a way, it's called "energy storage". Also, there are plenty of clean ways to generate electricity that don't rely on the Sun (well, at least not directly, as all energy comes from the Sun). Also, if you have your own solar panels they're generating electricity when the sun is out, which is the time of highest demand, and any excess can be fed back into the grid. Electricity is well understood and these problems have been figured out decades ago.
spark123
Detailer

Currently there is no clean energy period. It's just a trade off as to how you pollute. Even riding a bicycle gives off methane and CO
toy83h2ssj53
Intermediate Driver

Agreed, but depends on how much beans you consume as to how much methane is produced. CO2 is negligible, about the same as runners, and athletes like ball players (excepting golf), but the real good part is that cyclists are filtering out the bad stuff in the air with our lungs. Don't get me wrong, I love my cars, (hybrid, Caravan, and sport cars), but I love my bike as well.
perk120
Pit Crew

I got to drive one of the first ones in the mid 90's as a member of UL labs Fire Safety Council where GM was seeking approval of the charging system. As an old hot rodder I was amazed at the torque off the line and the boring silence on the road
mjposner
Pit Crew

I had an EV-1 for 2 weeks in May 2007 thanks to a GM FP&L focus group test program. My commute was 74 miles and I made it all but 2 days (dying in my street twice). If I went to lunch (2-4 miles) i had to go home with the a/c off to make it home. It was fun, interesting and enjoyable to drive.
mjposner
Pit Crew

Whoops, make that May 1997!
D_Nelson
New Driver

My father in-law had both the first and second generation. Great torque, really quick for the time. It rattle and squeaked like every GM car in the mid 90's. The top speed was limited. He loved that car though. I wish it was possible to get a body and put in a modern drivetrain.
brians356
Detailer

One of the museums may sell off their decommissioned example one day. Be ready.
uweschmidt
Detailer

Thanks for a Great Article !! But whats Hard to understand 100 engineers? I bet the Woods dual Powered Car and the owens Electric Drive Car were Probably designed and Built by less then A hundred People













Great enlightening Article But: A hundred Engineers? I bet the Woods Electric Car of around 1915 was probably desighned and built by a hundred people all told! what did these People do? design one Battery each? or did they also reinvent the Wheel while they were at it





brians356
Detailer

Not to mention the $Billion (in '90s dollars) dumped into the program.
Studenorton
Advanced Driver

We "were encouraged by the sold-state electronics that had been demonstrated..."

I should hope so. Are we to understand that other 1990 GM prototypes had vacuum tubes?
PLeder
New Driver

I was part of the EV-1 Electric Vehicle Program at FPL in the mid to late 90s. I had one assigned to me and was also a spokesperson for the car and program. I attended many events including a couple of Boy Scout Campouts/Jamborees. I drove the car for a couple of years. It averaged about 90 miles. I would charge it at work during the day on a dedicated charging unit and with a special 110 charger at home overnight. I never got stuck and always had amble charge. You did need to know how to drive and apply regenerative braking. I took a lot of company execs for rides in the car. I remember one exec saying "Its like a golf cart, but I bet it is pretty slow" I sad actually it is pretty quick and fast. It does 0-60 in just over 5 seconds. He didn't believe me and asked me to demonstrate. We drove to a desolate stretch on Donald Ross Rd, where I told him to hang on as I punched the pedal to the floor. The front tires spun as I held the wheel with great strength. The car launched to 60mph in no time and I backed off. He said amazing and it does not shift. I said no just like a golf cart. A really fast golf cart. That was the President of my company. Amazing memories.
67Firebird
Intermediate Driver

"In March of 1994, GM set two international and U.S. land-speed records with a modified Impact, averaging 183.822 mph"....Anybody have any info on where/when/whatever ? Most important, was a sanctioning reputable organization involved ? And, what were the mods ?
137hp in this configuration probably capable of over 140, but I'm old enough to remember GM HP claims from before.
67Firebird
Intermediate Driver

Answer to my own Q..http://www.jeffchan.com/cars/ev1/images/
Suggests FIA had a guy there....
67airvair
New Driver

They actually had built some 4 seat EV-1/Impact cars. But they used them as mules for a variety of alternate drivetrains, then showed them at one of the Detroit Auto Shows, where I saw them. They actually look better as a 4 place car.

In addition to only being a 2 seater, there were several other key strikes against them from the start. First, they limited their "sales" area. Second was the price. But the worst thing they did was that it wasn't a real "lease", as there was no "option to buy" at the end of the "lease." It was, rather, nothing more than a rental, in reality. So the customers were lied to right off the bat, and thus the whole program was designed to fail, right from the word "go". So just how sincere and honest does that make GM look to be? How sad.

And I hate to say all that, since I am retired from GM.
brians356
Detailer

Lied to? So the lease contract the customers signed said nothing about the end of lease terms and no option to buy? I find that hard to believe. Check that, I flat don't believe it.
jekirkbride
Intermediate Driver

The article explained why they weren't offered for sale.
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

“Explained” is a bit strong. “Made up a reason for” seems more appropriate.

If you limit your market to a select group of people, don’t let them even buy your product, and then decide not to continue to support it then yeah you end up with the weak sauce “our hands were tied” argument. That really strikes me as a self dig on GM, though because they could have worked on all of those three issues instead of trying to fight the CARB legislation and then had a new and innovative product years before Tesla successfully made the electric car cool again.
Air_and_Water
Detailer

GM far and away outdid everyone when trying to hit that unrealistic CARB legislation, spent a billion dollars doing it, and stopped when parts became unavailable. There simply was no option to support the cars after parts suppliers stopped producing parts, never mind the aforementioned liability problems.

Please tell me how you'd support an electric car with no new batteries available, especially when that's the main failure point.
MATTMERICA
Instructor

GM was busy going broke for the 2nd or 3rd time, it is understandable that they were all over the place
Joelb
New Driver

If you want a truly great story, you should investigate how GM fulfilled the CARB mandate without the EV 1.
infamouslyfast
New Driver

Thanks for this great article. As the owner of two gen 1 Volts I closely followed the early development of it all and still find that they fill their design function well some 8 years later. I have always believed that there are very good engineers, etc. at all the big manufacturers but all to often get stifled by overgrown bureaucracies of which GM is the poster child of. Although I applaud the team's efforts on the EV1, within the given tech parameters at the time, one should ask the deeper question of why, even today, we are still being prevented from using truly paradigm changing tech like zero point energy. Maybe that question would make it to the forefront if there weren't such hacks as Michael Moore mudding up the water.
WorthFlorida
Pit Crew

It seems not much different from then and now, limits on battery charging, battery technology and cooling requirements for the batteries. A great article.
SFGene
Pit Crew

Consider GM is 113 years old and finally cobbles up a volt, bolt? Tesla making cars for 13 years and here are the facts: 2020 Tesla sales 499,550 Volts 7,766, Bolts 24,779 ...and that's no Lie!
brians356
Detailer

Take the longest-range Tesla available. Drive it from Boise, ID to Reno, NV as fast as you dare. How long will the trip take? Answer: 9-1/2 hours. I can drive it in my tired old 1.5L '92 Civic VX in 6-3/4 hours, and average over 45 mpg.
jekirkbride
Intermediate Driver

Look out, Brian!
Tesla fanboys don't like to be confused with facts.
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

Apparently neither do ICE fanboys...

Non fanboy EV enthusiasts like myself do like facts. They’re the best way to get people to accept new technology along with a test ride.
spark123
Detailer

EVs are not new technology they have been around since at least 1907
Gary_Bechtold
Instructor

I've thrown in the Austin to Chicago route as an example. I can easily beat the Tesla to Chicago with time to take a long nap or spend a quarter of the day at an all you can eat buffet and still beat them there. When I had to do that route and used the Austin to Chicago route, they were like why would you do that? Simple I had to, I could do it and a flight would have cost way more than it cost me to fill up in the roughly 17 hours of driving. I still averaged 25+mpg in my Supra, 22+ if there were some "high-speed testing" involved. :^)

Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

Looks like you save about 2:30 driving gas assuming no stops (which is impossible given your gas tank size and mpg).

Realistically you probably save about an hour driving a gas car. For most people I’d imagine the $100 in gas savings would more than make up for an hour spent charging on a 17 hour drive.

Some people are in a rush, though so it may not work for them.

Calculation done with a model S and Abetterrouteplanner.com
spark123
Detailer

Wait till the government figures out how to tax your electricity like they do gas.
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

8:02 in a model S. (A better route planner website)

If you drive it straight with no stops you will “beat” the Tesla. Most people won’t because they’ll need to pee or eat etc. If you do that’s fine, but it presents a very specific use case as a general argument for why EVs “aren’t ready” for long trips.

If your metric includes any other factors the Tesla is comparable or better (comfort, cost, HP at altitude). That old 1.5L civic probably won’t be screaming up the 10,000 feet of elevation gain along the way either. You can use the $25 in gas you save with the Tesla to enjoy a good meal at the one 33 minute charging stop, and maybe a soda at the second 15 minute stop if you have time after using the bathroom.

I appreciate facts. Fudging facts to fit the narrative that EVs are useless is underhanded.
spark123
Detailer

But, you still can't get your Tesla serviced or buy parts in a timely fashion!
SFGene
Pit Crew

Consider the first Volt close to 60 buttons, dials, gauges on the dash and steering wheel. ummm Tesla 2 buttons on the wheel! GM is so out of the loop on EV's! My friend David a 787 Pilot bought one and loved it! Yes I said looks just like the cockpit of his plane!
spark123
Detailer

Ya, that ginormous tablet slapped on the dash is really appealing.
TestReactor
New Driver

Great story. One of my professors had worked for GM on the Impact a few years before I knew him. I believe that those GM engineers did great designs but, like others have said, the supporting technology was too far away. Even today batteries are the limiting factor. The US is way behind on this technology and we can't rely on Bill Gates or Elon Musk to fix it. To meet carbon emission reduction goals the federal government needs to drastically increase funding in battery research. I work in the next generation reactor field to support getting the electricity produced with zero emissions but I see battery research as being significantly under funded. My funding is seeing increases but is still far less than what the government did to develop nuclear power in the 50s through early 70s. Many more of us could be driving EVs now if the feds funded a big development effort in the 90s.
brians356
Detailer

Since humans don't cause climate change, why reduce carbon emissions at all? That said, I'm all for as much nuclear power as we can muster, and quickly. But not to charge EVs, the demand for electricity for our modern economy is growing fast enough to challenge even the virtually unlimited fossil fuels still in the ground.
jekirkbride
Intermediate Driver

Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by 48% since the Industrial Revolution began. This is the most important long-lived "forcing" of climate change.
Methane. A hydrocarbon gas produced both through natural sources and human activities, including the decomposition of wastes in landfills, agriculture, and especially rice cultivation, as well as ruminant digestion and manure management associated with domestic livestock.
Nitrous oxide. A powerful greenhouse gas produced by soil cultivation practices, especially the use of commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production, and biomass burning.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Synthetic compounds entirely of industrial origin used in a number of applications, but now largely regulated in production and release to the atmosphere by international agreement for their ability to contribute to destruction of the ozone layer. They are also greenhouse gases.
---NASA - But what do they know?
petersalt
Intermediate Driver

The Greenhouse gas theory is just that .. a theory with computer simulations .. yet no definitive proof of concept. MANY very experienced physicists continue to disagree with the Greenhouse cause of warming and credit solar cycles and other factors. Science is NEVER settled until PROOF of proof.
Richter12x2
Pit Crew

The point of science is even with proof, it's not settled, because it always takes new data into account.
Completely unlike the opinions of people who don't know anything about it. Instead they they saw an article posted on the internet once by someone they've never heard of, but must be an expert because it reinforced what they already thought.
My personal favorites are the ones where "This doctor says man-made climate change is a hoax" and it turns out they're a Doctor of Fine Arts.
spark123
Detailer

If you look back in prehistoric times to when the earth was a hot and tropical place you will find that the CO concentration was much higher than today. Were the dinosaurs burning too much fossil fuel?
Global warming is a cyclical event that is driven by much greater elements than the consumption of fossil fuel. The best way to stop global warming is an ice age, but you really don't want that either.