With the widespread popularity of Tesla electric cars, the future of green automobile is a sweet dream comes true. Many automakers are pouring their innovative ideas to create better electric car with longer driving distance. However, do you that back in the 90s, the first ever mass produced compact electric car, EV1 was once a controversial headliner?
What is EV1
Back in 1996, General Motor (GM) rolled out the EV1, an innovative battery-powered car. It was introduced in response to a 1990 California law requiring car makers to produce zero-emissions vehicles in order to continue selling conventional automobiles in the state. GM has produced 1,117 EV1s, but made them only available for lease. At that time, there was nothing else like the EV1 on the market, the EV1 has instantly garnered consumer’s attentions and GM has received thousands of applications since.
Although all EV1s looked the same, they actually belonged to two generations. Gen I cars had a three-phase AC induction motor and a 16.5-kWh Delphi lead-acid battery pack. In 1999, GM released Gen II cars with 18.7-kWh Panasonic lead-acid batteries, and later upgraded them further with 26.4-kWh nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries, the same type used in the Toyota Prius and most first generation hybrids. Overall, the EV1 was quick, fun and reliable to drive with. (SOURCE: DIGITAL TRENDS)
Why GM destroyed the EV1
On the early 2000, General Motors has been gradually taking steps to eliminate its Electric Vehicle program, starting with recalling the Gen I cars, refusing to return the cars to lessee, putting the leasing service into a stop, fired a number of EV specialists and planning to crush the EV1 and S10 electric powered trucks.
In the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? Being released in 2006, electric car supporter and director Chris Paine contended GM for sabotaged the EV1, fearing electric vehicles would undermine its conventional business. There are a few EV1s that survived the massacre and have been delivered to museum and universities for study and research purposes.
Many factors have been speculated that contributed to the failure of the EV1, some said that GM has lost two billion dollars on the project, and lost money on every single EV1 produce and allegedly worry that EV1 will jeopardize the sale of the convention fuel powered cars. While some argued that the NiMH battery were unreliable and GM subsequently announced that the EV1 was discontinued because there was no demand.
However, what GM did to end the EV1 program was recalling all the leased vehicles and destroyed them in the junkyard. The move was done against the will of the drivers, some enthusiast went further to offer to purchase the EV1 from GM but that did not changed their intention to kill the electric car.
What comes after EV1
Shortly after the fall of EV1, Toyota has launched the first ever Prius which demonstrated the popular market demand for alternatives to gas powered car. While more and more automakers are building fuel alternative cars, GM realized their mistakes. Rick Wagoner, the former chairman of General Motor revealed that his biggest mistake was killing the EV1, which was seen as a breath of fresh air back in the 90s. His mistake has led GM abandoned a big lead in electric car technology and let Toyota take the green mantle for its hybrid Prius.
Later in 2009, GM declares bankruptcy, the company that was once sold more than half the cars in the US market and now controls less than 20%. Many years later, GM is struggling to regain its lead in the America automotive share by launching their latest electric cars, Chevrolet Volt and Bolt.
Little that they know, Tesla dominates the US electric vehicle market by 45% (Model S, 29%; Model X, 19%), while Chevrolet Bold constitute 16% of sales from January to June 2017 while Nissan Leaf takes on 15%. (SOURCE: FORBES)
So, did GM destroyed one of their best car? There is no definite answer. There is one thing for sure, GM made a wrong move by shutting down the EV1 electric-car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids, which is the foreseen trend back then. Some say the EV1 was the right car at the wrong time, but one could possibly argued that it was the wronged measurement and skepticism that killed has the EV1.