At the time it seemed like something from a Philip K. Dick novel set in a science fiction future. Or maybe an early incarnation of the Jetsons. But either way, a pure electric vehicle available to the public in 1996 seemed like a far fetched concept and yet the General Motors EV1 was available to lease in 1996.
It looked like the future, or at least the 1990s concept of what the world could expect for transportation. Small, sleek and it only had room for two because of its 98.9″ wheelbase.
For context a current Mini Cooper coupe has a 98.2″ wheelbase and as an owner of a 2015 Mini I can confirm that they’re short like Muggsy Bogues.
General Motors considered the EV1 as a kind of experiment in alternative fuels and produced 1,117 EV1s in its short run from 1996-1999. You could not buy one, you could only lease one and they were only available in the markets of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, Atlanta, San Francisco and Sacramento.
The first generation (1996-1998) had lead-acid batteries with a range of 70 to 100-miles. With the second generation (1999-2003) the EV1’s range improved to 80 to 100-miles with lead-acid batteries and with the introduction of a nickel-metal hydride battery the range was bumped up to 100 to 140-miles.
Despite the progress GM dropped a bombshell on February 7, 2002 when they announced that they were taking back the EV1s from lessees and by November 2003 the vehicles were being returned.
GM did donate approximately 40 EV1s to various schools and museums but the batteries were removed that rendered the cars stationary.
The rest were sent to the great gig in the sky and were crushed, but one slipped through the grip of GM.
It was huge news in automotive circles but details were minimal, except it was found in a parking garage in Atlanta by a school. If you’re keeping score at home there is one EV1 in the wild but it is elusive and one must wonder what condition it is in or if it is drivable.
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Of course you had the opportunity to buy an EV1 recently from the University of Cincinnati but it was just a shell with no frame, doors, trunk lid, hood or a VIN. It went for $23,662.10 at a recent auction.
The EV1 was ahead of its time and was killed off by GM before it could fully mature. GM had the opportunity to change the automotive world and dropped the ball.
If they were forward thinking one could only imagine what EV products they could have developed in the ensuing decades after murdering the EV1.
As a result the car buying public was dealt a lousy hand when it comes to buying alternative-fueled vehicles.