Rare Surviving GM EV1 Waits For Savior At Missouri University

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GM EV1 electric car at Missouri S&T, Rolla, Missouri [photo: Jalopnik/Joel Johnson]

GM EV1 electric car at Missouri S&T, Rolla, Missouri [photo: Jalopnik/Joel Johnson]

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The late and much lamented GM EV1 electric car is by now a mythical creature.

It's been the subject of a much-discussed documentary, and is still cause for blind loathing of General Motors in some quarters.

Designed, engineered, and offered for lease in California and a few other locations from 1998 to 2003, the two-seat EV1 was likely the most sophisticated electric car ever built at the time.

It used a lead-acid battery pack that weighed almost four times as much as that of the lithium-ion pack in the modern-day Chevrolet Volt, with almost the same capacity, giving a range of 60 to 80 miles.

But the drivers who leased it--among them Danny DeVito and other celebrities--loved it.

When California changed the laws that required sales of zero-emission vehicles by the largest carmakers, GM walked away from the project, took back all the cars, and crushed them-- the dramatic ending of Who Killed the Electric Car?

Former CEO Rick Wagoner later said that axing the car had been the "worst decision" of his tenure at GM.

EV1 spotted on Google Earth

EV1 spotted on Google Earth

Enlarge Photo

Of the 1,117 EV1s manufactured, only about 40 escaped the crusher. Some went to museums, others to universities, all of them reportedly disabled.

Now one has turned up, dusty, non-running, and stored in the open, at Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla.

The complete story can be found on Jalopnik, including a number of later additions to fill in the history of this particular vehicle and add more details to the story overall.

In this case, the story notes, the car no longer runs because a no-longer-available GM part broke after it was put back on the road by university students seeking to build an autonomous electric delivery vehicle.

As author Mike Spinelli concludes ...

Who really killed the electric car? College nerds trying to build the perfect pizza delivery vehicle.

Read the story; you'll enjoy it.

[Photos by Jalopnik/Joel Johnson, used with permission]


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Comments (43)
  1. Great story. Hopefully this surviving GM EV1 gets a little TLC and a safe place to live on for future generation to admire.

  2. Is there a database of the locations of the remaining EV1's?

    The other day, I "discovered" one during a Plugshare check-in at the Virginia Transportation Museum in Roanoke that I had no idea was there. Ironically, it's directly inside the museum from the Level 2 charger in the parking lot. So, as you're plugging in your car, you can admire the EV1 through the window, sitting right next to the 1913 Detroit Electric.

  3. blind loathing - the use of the word blind seems incorrect. It suggests no reason. Is that what you are saying, that people had no reason to loath GM?

  4. @Chris: Fair point. I was trying to suggest that such loathing may have been appropriate in 2003, but 10 years later, with the range-extended electric Chevy Volt being the best-selling plug-in car in the U.S., it may be time to modify that view a bit.

  5. There are plenty of reasons to dislike what GM is and is not doing with plugins today. The notion of the Volt being a form of a redemption for GM's actions with regard to the EV1 was an appealing one a couple of years ago. Many people supported GM's renewed emphasis on EVs at the time by buying a Volt. However based on GM's current position on the matter, which is rather well-represented in this forum, redemption has not yet occurred. Through action and evolution maybe the Spark EV and a lot more continued leadership on part of GM may get us there.

    How did the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" end?

    By remaining hopeful and positive for the future of EVs.

  6. the volt runs on GAS and electricity.

    the only electric vehicle they are selling is a compliance vehicle.

    gm openly dissed evs with their advertising on the volt.

    the facts are extremely obvious to anyone who is not biased towards gm.

  7. It is rather ironic isn't it, that the most right-wing of car companies is now the leader of the electric vehicle industry (yes, I know it's an EREV/PHEV).
    EV Enthusiast: I am with you regarding the Spark. I'll buy that they are different when they get that vehicle selling elsewhere in the country. To me, it seems like the first real attempt at a normal EV car. The price is right and it would make a good commuter. I don't get making it just for compliance.

  8. hi chris,

    none of the majors but nissan WANTS to make evs. hopefully that will change.

    gosh, i saw my first miev on the road today. ouch, it is small. it did not look any bigger than the smart car.

    i guess we just need to attck the small car market, first.

    the cars i see on the road all the time are the camry, sentra, civic, sonata, corolla, stanza, cr-v, accord, rav-4, altima.

    are these cars popular in most areas ?

  9. It looks like it is missing the battery, because the suspension appears to be unloaded.


  10. John,

    I have a weekend homework for you. :) Watch "Who Killed the Electric Car?" again.

    "Blind" loathing of GM?!

    Crushing the EV1 was the dramatic end of the movie?!

  11. @Vladi: See my previous response to @Chris Johnson, above.

  12. I'd love to buy it, clean it up, and take it to car shows.

  13. "Who really killed the electric car? College nerds trying to build the perfect pizza delivery vehicle."

    But from an efficiency point of view, there is nothing better than an EV for pizza delivery... :)

  14. If you removed the back seats in a LEAF, you'd have pretty close to the perfect pizza delivery vehicle. Actually, you can put several dozen pizzas in the trunk and back seat, so nix the seat removal idea.

  15. The GM EV-1 wasn't mythical in any way but very real and what happened to it was the automotive equivalent of genocide which was bound to cause some resentment against the old and by then rather infamous General Motors Corporation (after its bankruptcy succeeded by the General Motors Company), hardly something to be dismisses as "blind" hatred as other commenters have noted.

    Also most versions weren't lead acid powered but NiMH powered so their range wasn't 60-80 miles but up to 160 miles.

    It's curious that a classic like this should be left to rot away. No doubt there is some serious value in this car for collectors of really rare and historically important cars.

  16. When we were planning the vigil at the GM facility in Burbank, the Saturday before we started it, Chelsea and Bob Sexton and I jumped the fence and ran over to the 78 EV1s all parked in three rows. I have some good photos of them from close up. We took pictures and wrote down all the VINs so we'd have a database for later. We fully expected to have some guys running after us, but no one came out. It was a bright sunny day around noon.

    If I'd known how it would all end 28 days later, I'd have cut the gate at night and driven one away. I have friends in Oregon with a barn way out in the woods.

  17. @Chris: It was my understanding that a minority of the EV1s had the second-generation NiMH pack. If you can provide sources for your statement, I'd like to correct the misimpression if it is one.

  18. What I could find was that part of the 2nd gen (457 units) was fitted with NiMH +200 retrofits. So although probably the minority of vehicles were fitted with NiMH it was the final configuration that all following production would have had if the program had not been cancelled. A 26KWh NiMH battery in such a light and aerodynamic car made for a combination that even today only Tesla can beat in terms of range.

    This car is not be dismissed as an obsolete lead-acid contraption with no serious range.

  19. The EV-1 used to weigh between 2,900 lbs to 3,100lbs depending on the battery type inside. That is NOT really all that light for a comparable sized 2 seater back in its time. Even comparing to today's i3, it is pretty heavy and limited in capacity.

  20. I guess people still think that a company can't do what they want with their test car or equipment just b/c they love it...

  21. So tired of the "they were only test vehicles" excuse. Don't forget how GM sold the battery tech to Chevron which made very sure it was never to be used in 4 wheeled plug-ins ever again. This was scorched earth policy by a car company that at the time was pretty desperate to get plug-ins out of the minds of the public and policy makers.

    Tragic, because I think GM was pretty serious about the EV-1 at the time. It was when CARB started to force their hands with misguided dreams of the market potential of plug-ins given the state of technology at the time that GM opinion changed radically. No longer a product to be further developed but one that had to be decisively exterminated.

  22. NiMH is still NOT good enough for EVs today. Look at where Li-ion is and compared with NiMH, it is way better.

    The point is regardless how GM intent was, people NEVER bought the car. It was NOT their car to choose.

  23. Apparently Chevron had a somewhat different take on the capabilities of NiMH than you do.

    The EV-1 was developed with intent of production, not as a mere compliance car as demonstrated by the fact that it wasn't a converted ICE job. As I understand it this would have been brought to the market as a car people could buy if it hadn't been for CARB intervention.

  24. "intent of production"? I disagree. If a car is truly designed for "mass" production, then it would have more parts shared with existing platform to lower cost. Or it would have shared similar production process.

    EV-1 didn't share any. In fact, it shared more similarity with a "pilot" test program car like the VW XL1. GM didn't even put it in a "brand".

    Also, EV-1 was available outside the CARB state. It was available in Atlanta GA, under the Georgia Power "test program" where Georgia Power employee could lease one cheaply...

  25. So according to you the more an EV is based on existing ICE platforms, the more serious a carmaker is about them. Curious logic. Look at the current batch of compliance cars and note what they have in common...

    If GM had bothered to develop a dedicated platform for the Volt it might have had some serious interior space rather than being mostly about hauling its own drivetrain. EG the BMW i3. Of course in a way the Volt was the ultimate compliance car developed with a firm eye on the government whose cash GM was well aware it would come to depend on some day when the Volt was being developed.

  26. the chevron thing is obvious. i think oil is the only reason that gm scrapped the ev1, and the ev program.

  27. There are more comments in this thread
  28. hi chris,

    if they were really serious, why would they not at least allow the owners to purchase their ev1s ?

    gm could have sold the cars with absolutely no guarantees, and at least have allowed the drivers the choice.

  29. Certain laws will require the automaker to "support" the cars sold with parts for x number of years...

  30. Seriously, that's a dumb question, EV. Did GM also want those same owners to be able to turn around and sell the car to any other OEM almost immediately? Did GM want its hard-earned proprietary knowledge to be that far out in the open, too?

    GM isn't the only OEM that demands that some leased vehicles be returned, of course, but with some people, when any other OEM does it it's okay but when it's GM that does it it's terrible.

    GM made the right decision to destroy all EV1's and the capability of the EV1 has been stretched big time by people who want to pretend that there was demand when there wasn't, there was profit when there wasn't, and the EV1 was capable, when the range was far less than stated even here as a fact.

  31. LOL - for gosh sakes, if some oem wanted "gm's hard-earned proprietary knowledge", do you think they could not have gotten it !! that was a seriously dumb reply.

    the patent on the batteries that gm sold to CHEVRON oughta open your eyes some.

    and let me see - there was no demand for the ev1, it couldnt sell, and gm was worried about its "hard earned proprietary knowledge" ?

    your story has more holes in it that a sieve. go back to the drawing board, and come up with another rationalization.

  32. the bottom line is that they had a wonderful start to a technology that its owners were begging gm to keep.

    instead of developing it further, they not only abandoned it, but sold the guts of it to CHEVRON.

    and when the leaf came out, they decided to come out with a hybrid to compete with the leaf with an advertising campaign on how the leaf would leave you stranded on the roadside.

    and they are selling their spark only to meet compliance rules.

    but somehow they found it necessary to come out with a hybrid at this stage of the game, when it is at its tail-end of usefulness ?

    even a first-grader could figure this one out.

  33. Get Tesla to put an appropriately sized Model S battery and rear-wheel electric motor and it'll run like a bat out of hell.

  34. I say a stock operating EV1 will be worth a million dollars one day.
    The now 16 year old EV1 puts all of today's EVs to shame. I had a 1997 EV1 VIN #330. (Yes they started in 1996.) The NiMH version I had as a loaner one time got well into the 100 miles range even with my lead foot. This was a faster and funner car to drive than my Chevy Volt. (Did I say 16 years ago?)
    I drove my EV1 for 3 years and over 30,000 miles. At the time I was sure gas cars were so obsolete that I would never have to buy gas again. I was made to be proven wrong by "the man."
    That's why I for one keep a close eye on them car makers now. Cause you never know. Gas cars make them a lot of money. It's like crack for them.

  35. Battery note: these had 2 generations of batteries, "gen 1", the lead-acid battery pack, got lower range (50-60?), the "gen 2" batteries were NiMH and lasted up to around 100 miles when first installed (These were on a lease only program and GM "recalled" the EV-1s at some point to upgrade the battery packs). The NiMH battery technology, which was being developed for even more range, was sold to Chevron before or around the time GM crushed the cars, (NiMH= Nickel Metal Hydride). The batteries in the Volt are Lithium Ion, not the same.

  36. Crushing the cars wasn't enough for GM, they were actually shredded into small pieces - it was awful to watch. So I'll loath with my eyes wide open for a little longer.

  37. Crushing is easy for metal. When it is fiberglass, then shredding works...

  38. Yes, GM should have continued to lose billions on a development program that many love now in retrospect but nobody wanted at the time. Yes, those whopping 1,117 customers in how many years?

    But please, continue to childishly hate GM for walking away from a colossally big financial loss that most OEMs still won't touch seriously even today. Yes, GM is bad to the feeble-minded because they ended production of a not-ready-for-primetime EV. You know, kind of how Toyota, Honda, Mazda and many others are doing now, right?

    The lease vehicle belonged to GM, did you also whine when BMW demanded its Mini Cooper EVs be returned at lease end? Or is your bitter anger years later somewhat selective?

  39. For another project, I actually got to work with some of the AeroEnvironment engineers who'd worked on developing the EV1. They were rightly very proud of the work they'd done creating such an efficient EV.

  40. "In this case, the story notes, the car no longer runs because a no-longer-available GM part broke after it was put back on the road by university students seeking to build an autonomous electric delivery vehicle."

    so make a new part. JFC, it's a university full of bright kids, figure out either how to build a replacement or design a functional equivalent.


  41. They could have easily improved on it today with the newest and latest battery and power electronics parts.

    IGBT and Power MOSFETs are certainly cheaper and more efficient than 20 years ago...

  42. I worked on this car. Glad it's still getting some publicity. I showed the article to the school and they had cleaned up the car and placed it back inside just like after we had completed the project. Just thought you guys would like to know.

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