Motoring Trailblazers - GM EV1

Sun 26th Aug 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Some of the biggest innovations in motoring over the next few years are likely to focus on the growing trend for electric vehicles and also a business model from manufacturers which looks at owners subscribing or leasing cars, rather than buying a vehicle outright.

Whilst these ideas are very much at the cutting edge for modern-day motoring, there was a forerunner as far back as 1996 which trialled both those concepts.

The GM EV1 can lay claim to being the very first purpose built electric car, which from its plant in the United States was mass-produced and leased exclusively to customers in California and Arizona. Despite being at the forefront of technology for the mid-1990s, the EV1 suffered from short ranges and long charging times and as such earned itself on some not too flattering lists, such as Time Magazine’s ‘50 Worst Cars of All Time’.

So what went wrong? A car which took five years to develop following the early Impacy concept which was first seen in 1991. The EV1 was solely produced from parts which were bespoke to the car, not a exisiting model with a battery replacing an internal combustion engine. With an aluminium space frame and suspension components, and plastic body panels, the EV1 was very light on its wheels.

The EV1’s range was advertised by GM as 70 to 90 miles, which isn’t too far from what current electric vehicles are capable of. This cannot be verified unfortunately as they were all scrapped in 2004. The early model EV1s did suffer from poor charging times, 15 hours from an American 110-volt outlet, though the company did have a network of 220-volt chargers across many public locations such as malls, hotels and airports. It’s a problem we are seeing today, EVs can be charged at home, but you get a faster charge at a specially designated point.

So did the EV1 deserve to go to the great scrap-heap in the sky? Well, with the subscription model it was perhaps an easy decision to make for GM, but perhaps one led more by the big Oil corporations of America, rather than a decision based on practicality.