Dec 4 1996 GM Delivers EV1 Electric Car This Day In Tech Wired com

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General Motors EV1

Dec. 4, 1996: GM Delivers EV1 Electric Car

1996: General Motors begins delivery of the EV1, an electric vehicle that is a technical triumph for the time. It generates passion-fueled controversy that still reverberates today.

The technological innovations of the EV1 went well beyond the battery pack, inverter and AC induction motor that propelled the car without using any gasoline. The lead-acid battery pack could store only 17 kilowatt-hours for the first generation, roughly equivalent to half a gallon of gasoline. As a result, GM engineers had to do everything they could to reduce the weight and aerodynamic drag of the car to achieve a workable range.

To make the car as aerodynamic as possible, they adopted a teardrop shape with covered rear wheel wells. That resulted in an unprecedented coefficient of drag of only .19, which was about half that of most cars at the time. As a result the car was unfortunately about half as comely as other cars too.

To reduce weight, the EV1 engineers used an aluminum chassis and plastic body panels. They also designed the car as a two-seater, which was known to be a limiting factor in the marketplace but was considered a necessary tradeoff. Efforts to reduce weight extended to the little bits in the car, including the use of magnesium in the seat frames.


Ironically, General Motors was embarking on an extraordinary effort that was the showcase of its technological leadership, and simultaneously doing everything it could to dismantle or weaken the regulations that necessitated the program in the first place — the California Zero-Emissions Vehicle mandate.

General Motors EV1

GM succeeded in its efforts to weaken the regulation in 2001, and CEO Rick Wagoner canceled the program shortly thereafter. In a move that angered EV1 lessees and enthusiasts, GM took back all the cars and sent them to the crusher, ostensibly to avoid the requirement of having to provide parts and service for the vehicle for the following 15 years.

But today, GM is once again on the verge of bringing an innovative electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt. to the market. The company has staked a lot on the program, and its success could be emblematic of the rebirth of a new General Motors. One can only imagine where the company — and EV tech in general — would be if GM had chosen to press its technology advantage when it was well ahead of its competitors.

Source: Various

Photo: One of the few surviving examples, a 1996 General Motors EV1 electric car is displayed at the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan, in 2008.

General Motors EV1
General Motors EV1
General Motors EV1
General Motors EV1
General Motors EV1
General Motors EV1

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