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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
Spuds
Advanced Driver

we can't rely on Bill Gates or Elon Musk.....
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Thank goodness,2 evil monsters if ever existed.
audiobycarmine
Instructor

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation might just be the largest charitable organization ever, in terms of real money given.
Try the other side of the bed.
Spuds
Advanced Driver

You mean the eugenicist Bill Gates? Now go get your untested mRNA gene editing flu shot.

Slow-N-Relaxed
Pit Crew

GM Built a battery research facility in Honeoye Falls, NY (south of Rochester). We owned a home there from 1992 until 2006. We saw GM EV-1s on the road around H.F. CONSTANTLY in the last several years we lived in H.F. So not all of them were scrapped. Presumably, those assigned to the H.F. facility were being used to assess real-world performance of various battery and fuel-cell tech they were (presumably) working-on in the research facility. It appeared that a fair number of employees were using them as commute vehicles. GM vacated the H.F. research facility some years ago, The site was approved to store around 20,000 pounds of hydrogen so you know fuel cells and hydrogen power were likely being studied along with battery tech.
mfp4073
Intermediate Driver

Tesla claims their new S has the best drag coefficient of any production car ever built at .208 but this car was an amazing .190 / The article says that this was a production vehicle, so are they comparable? I just happened to notice this. Great article guys! thanks.
spark123
Detailer

If you look at the efficiency of a Tesla it is absolutely horrible. They overcome the efficiency shortcomings by brute force (larger batteries).
Zephyr
Instructor

According to at least one Saturn service manager the EV-1 had a bad habit of catching fire.
PWC
New Driver

We were one of the recipients of the 40 EV1s that were donated to universities, "batteries not included". We were able to get our EV1 running using ultracapacitors for energy storage. Of course the caps would only deliver power for about 20 seconds so would cold we do? Quarter-mile drag race of course. We set at lease one national record with the NEDRA group in the "Modified Production" category.
I would add, as an additional engineering justification for destroying all of these beautiful automobiles, that the primary front suspension components were made of Aluminum. Aluminum components will eventually fail in fatigue even from light cyclic loading. To have left these cars on the road without periodic non-destructive testing of Aluminum structural parts for fatigue damage, would have been irresponsible of GM engineers. At the time, the destruction of these cars was a sad but necessary action.
Spuds
Advanced Driver

IMO one of the most important vehicles ever built,loaded with ground breaking tech.Such a shame that for whatever reasons the program was shut down.That 125 plus mile range including driving on southern cal freeways and zipping around the Malibu hills the car was astounding.What always makes me wonder is why when the mileage became quite feasible was when the car was suddenly declared dead.Yup,I see string pullers at work no matter what anyone else officially says.Big money and huge stakes at play.

Cui Bono? The first thing you always address when investigating....

DrWho
Pit Crew

I recall being surprised by the attractive design, even if it vaguely resembled a 1966 Panhard 24C - which I also thought was quite good. The Panhard was powered by a not quite 850 CC opposed twin (air cooled) as I recall, but quite good fun.
br427
Intermediate Driver

As long as I can get 8 or more pistons to go up and down and make horsepower, I will NEVER drive an electric pos. Nuff said.
bmacil1234
New Driver

A true "car guy" would not be so closed minded. What difference does it make how the vehicle is propelled. I am not saying one is more superior then another, its a matter of taste. But to exclude electric vehicles because they do not make their power with a combustable fuel only shows ignorance. Any real car guy know that horsepower is not what propels a vehicle or wins races, it is torque. Electric motors provide immediate torque directly to the drive wheels without the need for a transmission, providing a hell of a ride that will almost always beat a comparable ICE vehicle.
The only real hurdle left for the electric vehicle is range. A fuel cell on board that keeps the battery charged could fix this problem until battery technology improves. But the reality is that future vehicles WILL be driven by electric motors. Take a look at the supercars that have come out over the last few years, almost all of them are hybrids, electric is not going away. In fact, has it ever really gone away? Trains have been using electric motors since steam engines went obsolete.
I really do not understand the hatred for electric vehicles, everyone I know that has actually driven or ridden in one, likes them. People that have not driven or ridden in one think they are toys or do not understand how advanced they have become.
Are we ready to replace all ICE vehicles with electric, no. Range, battery efficiency, charging infrastructure, charging speed are all obstacles, but only if you want an identical experience to driving an ICE vehicle.
There is a place and a need for them now. With gas prices being almost $1 more a gallon then they were a year ago, they are cheaper then ever to drive, even if you have to recharge them every 300 miles or so, and you beat almost anything on the road from one traffic light to another.

Richter12x2
Pit Crew

This. I'm definitely a car guy, my wife and I are up to 8 now. A couple of old Packards, a Triumph, a Mustang, a Porsche, a 57 Chevy, and a 55 GMC truck. For about the last 5 years, my main car has been an EV. First a Chevy Volt and then a Tesla Model S (mostly because as much as I loved the Volt, we needed something bigger.) Because as awesome as the Triumph is, on any given day, it may or may not start. If it DOES start, it may or may not have power. If it has enough power to go somewhere and you stop the engine, odds are good it won't start again for 30 minutes or an hour.
The 55 GMC truck, I started with a plan to put a v8 in it, but I get sick of seeing every car older than 1985 with an LS stuck under the hood like it's a novel idea. We get it, you can afford a crate motor. It'd be cool to see one with the original GMC 6 cylinder, but you're going to have the same problems, and if you DO get it running, what's your top speed, 50mph?
So after a false start sticking a Nissan v8 in it, it was going to be so hard to fit and require at LEAST 6 computers to run it, I decided to try converting it to electric. 6 months later now, I can get in it, turn the key and drive it. I don't have to figure out a choke, I don't have to dial in carburetors or swap a dozen jets, or read spark plugs to find out what's wrong. It has more HP and as much torque as the original 248, which was plenty of torque.
And you can get in it, turn the key and go. It looks like a GMC, but in the 2 weeks I've had it running, I've driven it more than I've driven the Triumph and the Porsche in the past year, because I know that if I turn it off, it'll start again.
Spending less than a tenth of what I would spend running the gas engine per mile is a perk, too.
So it may be time for the "Never electric" crowd to get over themselves. You learned to accept the Wankel engines, and you'll eventually learn to accept this too. Otherwise, I'll still happily help you out when you break down on the side of the road, just don't ask for a jump unless you can handle 180VDC.
Air_and_Water
Detailer

I have a commuter, pickup, and an old project car with a (*gasp*) carburetor. Why in the hell would I want a gas guzzling V8 as a commuter in rush hour traffic when I can have something more comfortable, smoother, faster, and cheaper to run? I'll save the burbling V8/other fun cars for the weekend when they can be enjoyed and properly opened up.
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

Sounds like a bunch of BS to me. To paraphrase “we built a car that everybody in our focus group and that leased it loved, we were able to double the range with a different battery chemistry BUT there wasn’t enough demand for it so we had to take back all the cars and destroy them”. Yeah BS. I’m sure the oil lobbies had absolutely nothing to do with repealing the supposedly “unobtainable” California mandate of electric vehicles.

The article just doesn’t add up- you can’t have both sides of the story that you built a fantastic car that everyone loved AND that you were unable to sell it. That sounds suspiciously like a marketing problem, which the Nissan Leaf and many other EVs are still running into. If you don’t have the desire to actually sell your product (which many Chevy dealers still don’t seem to have with the bolt) then of course your customers won’t buy as many.

Richter12x2
Pit Crew

If you think about the Chevy Volt, it probably WAS a marketing problem. I actually owned one, and was literally jaw-drop astonished at how good it was. It was pure electric until the batteries were low, and even then was capable of highway speeds (unlike the BMW i3). The EV motor was plenty torquey, fit and finish was excellent. We have a Tesla now and my wife and I BOTH still talk about how good the Volt was.
In all the years the Volt was around though, I only ever saw one commerical advertising it, and it was the one Volkswagen was forced to make as a result of their emissions scandal, where they were forced to advertise EVs and Hybrids but not allowed to feature their own vehicles in it. But you can't go 15 minutes without seeing a Chevy truck commercial. Did you know Chevy made trucks? I sure am glad someone comes around every 10-15 minutes to remind me or I might forget.
So I think you're probably on the money. The engineers and people who designed it, and everyone who drove it or touched it probably DID love it, similar to the Volt. The decision to not focus on it or hype it was most likely political from upper management.
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

I’ve heard the same thing from every Volt owner I’ve ever met. The second generation is even better with not needing premium and the better styling.

There’s a Nissan dealer in Canada that has honed in on selling Leafs so much that they end up running out and having to import more new and used ones to meet demand. Once you can actually show people how an EV can fit into their lifestyle as an improvement-not just an “as good”- then it’s not a hard sell.

My girlfriend when shopping for her Bolt at a Chevy dealer had a salesman call it “that pile of junk”. Now who in their right mind would pitch a car to a potential buyer that specifically asks about that car as a pile of junk?

You have to want to sell your product to actually sell it.
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

Having trouble finding my source for the LEAF anecdote. I’ll see if I can dig it up later.
Air_and_Water
Detailer

What doesn't add up is spending a billion dollars for something you want to fail. Literally no company in the world, including GM, would do that.

This was far and away the best EV effort at the time, but that time was simply too soon for battery tech.
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

They would if they could save $1.1 billion by not having to produce EVs by nixing the CARB legislation 😉

Similar to how venture capital drug companies have turned to cancelling R&D and instead just raising prices on existing drugs. If you can sell your main cash cow (insulin or diesel trucks) without spending money on R&D why would you NOT cancel the R&D project?
Sonderklasse
New Driver

The problem with GM back then, and even now it seems that there are too many committees involved in making product decisions. When I read the story all I could think of was GM corporate bureaucracy. How can a Goliath in the auto industry just put out bland design by committee electric vehicles (Volt, Bolt) when Tesla, a small start up have an entire product line and dominant position in the EV market? While I applaud the GM engineers and what they accomplished with the technology at the time I really think the executives dropped the ball on this one and ceded their head start in EV production.
Richter12x2
Pit Crew

I had a 2nd Gen Volt and loved it. Wish they still made them. The Bolt looks awful, and the 1st Gen Volt looked like a cheap knockoff Prius. The 2nd Gen Volt was a nice looking little car, though.
The Malibu is looking pretty good finally, too. I would have loved to see a Voltec unit in a Malibu, and I probably wouldn't be driving a Tesla today.
lepiane
Pit Crew

Fascinating and enlightening article I need to share with a former friend who leased. Almost 60 years ago we put a man on the moon when everything we did did not revolve solely around profit. In many ways it is surprising how far we have NOT come with technology, and I blame the profit-first motive. Heck... One day potable water may cost more than fossil fuels, and we still can't seem to remove salt from the ocean effectively on a grand scale. 'Electric' vehicles, from small cars to cargo ships, will become the norm the day charging them can be done in minutes vs. hours. When? Who knows? Another 60 years?
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

That day has already come. Super chargers add 200 miles or more of real world range in 20-30 minutes, which works out to your average rest area/ dinner stop. 

coupled with the fact you can charge at home and start with a totally full battery you can easily drive for 4 hours at 70mph before having to stop. 9/10 times I’m itching to stop to have a leak before the car is even close to needing juice. 

Take a Tesla out on Turo sometime and go for a drive- it’s a unique experience worth more than a 15 minute test drive. 

dbier
Intermediate Driver

People who liked the idea of driving an electric (supposedly less polluting) car - loved it. The vast majority of drivers then - and today - are unwilling to give up the amazing flexibility that ICE equipped cars (including hybrids) give us. Until a pure electric can provide the same flexibility as an ICE equipped car - consumer demand will always be low even if prices come down.
dbier
Intermediate Driver

To clarify - demand for pure electric cars in relation to total cars sold (i.e. market share).
Jhaggerty
Intermediate Driver

What do you define as the amazing flexibility of ICE vehicles? 

if I had to guess, it would boil down exclusively to range advantages. (But that’s a guess and is not meant to be snarky, I’m genuinely curious)

here are some of the real world flexibilities of EVs right now that I’ve personally experienced:

 

1. ability to leave my house with a full tank. 

2, ability to run heat/ AC all night while car camping with minimal noise or fumes

3. being able to fuel my vehicle literally anywhere there is electricity 

4. Getting 150 mpg equivalent cost wise when I’m willing to wait, and 60 mpg equivalent when I’m in a rush. 
5. getting a “full tank” in the time it takes to eat a burger, without having to pump gas for 5 minutes (10 seconds to plug in and 25 minutes to do whatever I want)

6. Having a significant increase in cargo space due to the lack of an engine bay

7. instant acceleration 

8. never having to touch the brake pedal

9. Sometimes charging is straight up 50% off or even free.

10. It handles like a sports car, sips “fuel” like a Prius, and drives itself... and cost less than a basic run of the mill pickup truck. 

These are things you don’t come to appreciate until you incorporate an EV into your daily habits. 

Richter12x2
Pit Crew

I think the "ability to leave my house with a full tank" thing is the most overlooked and important thing when you look at EVs. Too many people who are used to having to stop for gas several times a week look at an EV taking 45 minutes or longer to charge and think "Man, that's gotta suck, I don't want to stand at the pump for 45 minutes". It doesn't really click that, you charge the car nightly, so every morning you have the equivalent of ~250-300 miles of range.
The best way to think about it is, if you magically started every day with your car full, would you have to stop and fill up before you go home? Most people wouldn't, but the people who WOULD are really the ones who would be stuck waiting. Otherwise, it's just always ready to go when you are.
Unless I'm driving my classic, (which doesn't happen often enough ANYWAY) the only time I've stopped at a gas station in the past 5 years, other than a few U-Haul trips, was to get an Icee.
Richter12x2
Pit Crew

Oh, and to be clear - the Teslas at least, when you DO recharge, you almost never recharge all the way away from home. Batteries charge faster the lower they are, so if you're on a long trip, the Tesla GPS will automatically figure out, with a little padding, the most efficient way to get there.
For example, driving from Dallas, TX, to Destin, Florida, it set up stops every couple of hours, and the longest one was 25-30 minutes. If you take a road trip with a family, if you can stop for gas and be back on your way in less than 30 minutes, you're doing something amazing.
dbier
Intermediate Driver

I hear what you are saying - but what do you do when you are traveling and staying overnight at a random hotel or relatives house without a charging station - and you don't want to run up their electric bill? 

dbier
Intermediate Driver

1) I mean the ability to have a single car that can handle all my around-town driving AND allow me to drive all day when I need to visit a friend, relative, take a vacation/weekend get-away or take a kid to/from campus.
2) In addition, several times a year I will pull a trailer or a wave runner - and I know that any sort of towing will dramatically impact EV range.
3) With an ICE vehicle I NEVER have to worry about where and when to refuel.

4) No worries that my range will change due to winter cold or the drain of running the A/C on hot summer days.   
5) When I visit friends/family or stay at a hotel - I never have to worry about how my vehicle will be charged overnight so it's ready to go the next morning (I just gas up my ICE when needed on the road).

Bottom line, until the above issues are no longer a concern with EVs - I won't buy a pure EV - a hybrid maybe, but not an pure EV.  

grc810
Pit Crew

I realize the looks of the vehicle was odd, due to aerodynamics. Even so, when a vehicle is so ugly (in my and many other people's opinion), it's not going to sell. Electric vehicles are now experiencing improved sales partly because they look mainstream. As far as the whole environmental virtue signaling about electric vehicles goes, the whole picture needs to be looked at. Those promoting all the wonderful benefits of EV's need to study the details about how bad the manufacturing of these batteries is. Just the mining of lithium, cobalt, and other components of the batteries has great negative environmental impact. Some of the countries providing these products are using child labor to mine them. I'm certainly not anti-electric vehicles. I had a good 41 year career in the electric utility business. In my opinion, the development of a safe and efficient on-board hydrogen fuel cell would be catalyst to break the acceptance of EV's wide open.
edddurst-gmail
Intermediate Driver

My question is, why do all the auto makers say that everything negative is a myth? I mean ALL of them, not just GM. Look at the Chrysler Corp. turbine car and the new Chargers and Challengers. All the negatives were/are "myths".
Ford's MachE, all the negatives are "myths". You name it and if it is negative, IT'S A MYTH!!!
millbuna
Pit Crew

Nice and informative article, I see an EV-1 and charger on a regular basis at the R.E. Olds museum in Lansing, home of EV-1 production. I find it "interesting" that many detractors criticize GM and the information & claims in this article (written by the head of the development program) preferring to believe the myths rather than the facts laid out. We live in a world where many, including those same detractors spend hundreds of dollars ditching perfectly good, 1-2 year-old smartphones & laptops in order to acquire the latest tech. Remember, when the EV-1 came out most of us were on PC's running Win95 with a 256k modem for internet. The article states parts suppliers stopped making parts and many of these would have been nearly 4 year old electronics and control systems which would have been outmoded tech by that time.
Spuds
Advanced Driver

The breakthrough was the large format NiMh battery pack.Suddenly it had a fantastic battery.Then POOF! The car is dead,CARB kills the mandate and the battery winds up owned by an oil company and shelved,never seen again.

No ,nothing to see here.

Same as the airplane is all about the wing,the electric car is all about the battery.The NiMh battery is fantastic,ask anyone who uses eneloops how they feel about NiMh.

The story here isnt about the EV1 platform,its about the battery,follow that story.

DavidHolzman
Detailer

Great article. But I would have liked to see some mention of Paul MacReady, the founder of Aerovironment (mentioned in the article), who was the brains behind the Impact. (He also was the brains behind the pedal powered airplane that won a major prize for being the first such aircraft to cross the English Channel.

I wish that after they decided to end production, GM had made the Impact into an ICE-powered economy/sports car. (But I don't know what the practicalities, or lack thereof would have been.) It's a beautiful car.

Finally, the beautiful rear view photo of the Impact reminds me of my family of origin's 1950 Studebaker. (Note: I said "reminds me of" and not "looks like".)
Taconite
New Driver

I would have been interested in his defense of the battery rights sell off. GM sold the majority rights to the battery tech to a Texaco. Texaco, the great EV enthusiast. Battery tech after that was severely constrained by the patent holder whenever EV scale batteries were attempted to be licensed. In the end , GM needed to recoup losses and sold out to to the people who suppressed EVs for as long as they could.
hyperv6
Gearhead

I can see in this thread that we are suffering more selective memory here. I even see someone claimed that GM lied to the customers?

The cold hard truth is this. This car was a lease from the start over a limited time. It was not a perfected car by any means and had much in common with the Turbine Chryslers of the 60's.

For the time it was as good of an EV as there was but that does not mean it was a great car. It fit some peoples needs but not most. It was very expensive to build and if sold no one would have bought it. To keep these things on the streets would have done more damage to the future of not only GM but EV cars in general as they were not fully ready for the real world yet. Technology here was just starting to ramp up and there was much to learn yet. Even today there are many things still being sorted out.
I still see some like to debate the clean or not clean status and emissions. The automakers are now looking to the EV as a path to more profits in the future over the ever growing expense of ICE products and development. The auto companies are not out to save trees but to add to the profits and stability of their companies. Some like GM not only in cars but also selling and licensing of tech to other companies.

The future of EV autos is more economic than anything else. As these cars get developed the cost will drop and as they improve the prices will stay the same or decrease in some areas much like most electronics today.
Also what they learn here can and may be adapted to other tech fields. Hey if an automaker comes up with the better battery they will make more money on it than the cars they sell just to the cell phone industry alone.