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.
Between 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 Google+.