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Bring Back the EV1 — Now!

12/29/2009 11:57:00 AM

Tags: Dan Chiras, electric cars, electric vehicles, green transportation, zero emission vehicles

In January 1990, the President of General Motors introduced an EV concept car, a two-seater commuter car, known as the "Impact" at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Most of us know it as the EV1.The impetus for this car was a mandate from California Air Resources Board. It required that all major-automakers sell zero emission vehicles in the state beginning in 1998. The EV1 was the perfect candidate.

216-022-Gazette-6-CMYK.jpgBetween 1996 and 1998, GM begrudgingly produced, sold and leased 1,117 of this very popular car. Eight hundred of them were made available through three-year leases, which were quickly “snatched up” by eager drivers. Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota all followed suit, producing a limited numbers of electric vehicles for sale in California.

By all accounts, the EV1 and others performed well and were extremely popular among those who purchased or leased them. Unfortunately, in 2003 when the leases expired on their EV1s, GM “snatched” the cars from customers. In a storm of controversy, the company destroyed most of the cars, crushing them.

This tragic event, chronicled in the movie, “Who Killed the Electric Car,” has been attributed to several factors. First was the auto industry's successful challenge of California's zero-emission vehicle mandate in federal court. By striking down the law, the car was, at least in the eyes of the regulators and car manufacturers, rendered obsolete. Second was a federal regulation requiring GM to produce and maintain spare parts for the EV1. If the car was no longer on the road, the company would not be required to comply with this mandate. The result of all this? A pile of crushed cars, now rusting in some vacant lots.

Currently, numerous auto manufacturers are scrambling to introduce electric vehicles to meet the needs of commuters the world over. EVs are clean, quiet, efficient, and much cheaper to operate than gasoline-powered vehicles.

My question is this: Why doesn’t GM bring back the EV1? They must have the drawings and the dies and equipment needed to manufacture it. They would certainly be tapping into a lucrative market, and I’m sure they could benefit from the financial shot in the arm.

Photo from Sony Pictures Classics. The documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car? explores a number of compelling theories about why GM crushed its fleet of EV1s. Read our review of the movie here.

Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on .

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judd meyers_3
2/11/2010 6:35:11 PM
We used to have several dozen auto manufacturers in this country. Money and supposed safety regulation has squeezed out start ups. the answer is to convert our entire fleet before their very eyes. Join us. We are planning on converting most of Colorado's fleet and would like to help you convert yours. Contact us at We are not currently a profitable company, just an idea and a lot of expertise and talent. If you want to start converting your company, city or state, lets lock arms and get going.

1/10/2010 4:11:09 PM
Its a beautiful piece of human invention. I thought that this whas the beginning of new hope and the fact that it would have taken some stress of society`s shoulders. But like all sustainable inventions, genius ideas that will benefit for the human race and our planet gets crushed by the corpomedia spreading propoganda. Its a complex but also very minor situation the ev1... Our so called world leaders has no say in this for the people they answer to owns the oil dynasties. When bush whas elected to play the puppet he answered to prescot mainly bec he is a major shareholder in chevron and thats why the white house joined the fight against the electric car. It whas the spark to ignite the devine way of living but for them it whas ludacris. If this invention had to be put in production all around the world the very word oil will be looked back on as a virus... All i can say is, its up to the people to keep the dream alive "BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY"...P.S WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT

Franco Munini_2
1/8/2010 8:28:14 PM
As a venezuelan citizen I can't see any sign from the car manufacturers to go electric or any other clean alternatives. It seems clear that a pact has been struck between Big Auto and Big Oil. One that leaves the resulting chaos to be solved by posterity, as if there're no other alternatives or they wouldn't produce results soon enough. Oil producing countries cannot find alternative incomes to address social needs unless practical international agreements designed for technological exchange and market pricing are directed to the necessary R&D involving the changes in global lifestyles. Invading countries to get their raw materials will not stop environmental damage nor decrease the gap between rich and poor. It takes political will to change today's worship from market to people... yet USAmericans are denied the chance to change the world for good through collective delusions induced by corpomedia to foster wars as necessary for US defence.

1/8/2010 1:09:15 PM
I've installed solar panels so an electric car is my next big purchase. I look forward to no elec bill and no gas bill eventually. The Nissan Leaf looks the most like a normal car. Ford has an interesting one, but for most of the US brands it's pretty pathetic so far. Car show starts next Monday with a whole area called "Electric Avenue" so let's see what they have. :-)

1/8/2010 11:28:50 AM
I believe GM is still trying to kill the electric car. This time with pricing the VOLT at $40,000. When no one purchases it at that price, GM can then come back and say there was no interest, and once again discontinue production.

1/8/2010 10:51:10 AM
The big 3 also had 80 MPG hybrid diesel cars back in the early 90's. Those idiots will not do the right thing until they are forced to do it!

1/8/2010 10:24:40 AM
If GM ever smartens up (and gets a little less greedy), I will be first in line to buy the EV1 -- it was cute, compact and in many way, perfect. But the likeliness of GM's CEO ever getting less greedy is pretty small. These were the CEOs who showed up to testify in front of Congress (begging for handouts from the public) and took their own personal jets. Clueless morons.

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