- The EV1 could be considered as Tesla's inspiration (Getty Images).

The EV1 : the forgotten Tesla's inspiration

27w ago


Come back in the nineties when the electric car was a strange concept. Before a man called Elon Musk founded Tesla in 2003, the electric car came from Japan but not only. The (un)famous Prius pushed a shy but obvious phenomenon which has exploded now. Before that Asian attempt, General Motors, one of the US motoring giants worked on an electric vehicle which changed people's mind. Most of us weren't born or were just children and young adults.

We missed an incredible and underrated car. The EV1 was developed and built by General Motors (GM) between 1996 and 2003. It can be unrealistic one of the American motoring brands thought to develop one the most rarest electric cars we can find now. The EV1 created some scandals by leaving an important legacy in the motoring culture.

The EV1 : a forgotten precursor of our green modern cars.

One of the rarest electric vehicles in the world (Pinterest).

The American motoring industry hides some forgotten treasures. The EV1, one of the first modern EVs adds another dimension about Tesla's success. Elon Musk was really inspired by the EV1's sad end as he stated about the origins of his company. The young and clever carmaker founded Tesla in 2003. The same year, GM abandonned the production of the EV1 after trying to launch a second and last generation without having more success. The automotive world wasn't again ready for the electric revolution.

The TZero or Tesla Roadster's prototype was inspired by EV1's design.

Developped by AeroVironment which worked on the solar pannels at that time and GM teams, the Impact electric concept car was presented at the LA Motor Show in 1990. The unexpected success of the prototype pushed General Motors to produce its first EVs. Developed by thinking the drivers would have been ready to buy the new model, the EV1 was appreciate by a lot of enthusiasts in California. Inspired from the solar energy on which AeroVironment used to conceive the EV1, the car was equipped with lead-acid batteries which gave a good autonomy.

Two generations, a final sad end.

The prEView program began before producing the first commercial electric car on the Californian roads. The project seems to be reliable once the popularity of the concept became real. The goal was simple : 50 handbuilt Impact electric cars would be lent to drivers for periods of one to two weeks in many garages. The Impact was renamed after the end of the official prEView program. The EV1 was born after that first program.

The EV1 was produced thanks to the Californian environmental policies (Wikimedia Commons).

The EV1 was considered as the first american massed-produced electric car before Toyota launched the Prius on the US market in 1997. One year earlier, General Motors produced the first EV1 models. The Gen I would conquer the American drivers but only 1,117 units were produced by using a complex leasing program. You had to rent your car paying every month instead of buying an affordable price which was estimated at $34,000. The way the pre-program ended is undoubtedly the second mistake GM made after destroying all the 50 testing Impact electric concept cars. The EV1 would have been an electric symbol but GM looked more reluctant. The next generation of EV1 seemed to be less ambitious rather than the first generation instead of the high rate of pre-orders.

An incredible advanced legacy and future lifestyle?

More than a simple attempt to change driver's minds, the EV1 represents an advanced technology. The second generation had to improve the electric batteries with new equipments such as NiMH batteries and modern technologies. Some concept-cars was presented to replace the electricity by gas turbine engines or compressed natural gas. Unfortunately, the concept-cars was forgotten too.

The end of EV1's era is linked with the birth of Tesla. Despite a success, General Motors stopped the production and cancelled the program. Though you couldn't become a real EV1's owner, Californian people liked that electric car. Some of them were ready to buy and repair their models themselves. GM sank their hopes by demanding the cars come back faster before the official end of the program. The EV1 would have been one of the first popular EV. Its Japanese rival, the Toyota Prius was equipped with classic electric batteries meanwhile GM developed advanced technology. The car accelarated at a top speed of 80 mph (129 km/h). Less faster Tesla's models, GM inspired some ambitious entrepreneurs all over the motoring world like NIO or NanoFlowcell, Taiwanese and Swiss companies created in the 2010's .

An old futuristic technology for a modern EV in the 2000s (Wikipedia).

The rebirth of a future popular and rare electric car?

Like the unlucky Delorean DMC, the EV1 could be the future popular symbol of a failed motoring attempts. A movie realised in 2006 tells the sad and unfair adventure of GM's electric car. Before that tribute to one of the astonishing first EVs, some actors helped GM to promote the EV1. During Sylvester Stallone's American movie premiere, an EV1 was presented officially. Althouh some important event were organized, the compaign was less important after a nomination at the Emmy Awards for an official TV advertisings. Recently, Jay Leno helped to participate to the new popularity of the EV1 after discovering a saved model from the destruction in 2003. In his show, Jay Leno's Garage, he presented one of the two intact EV1s which became a master piece of Francis Ford Coppola's collection.

"Who killed the electric car?", a documentary on EV1's history sums up the problems around the development of the electric vehicle in a motoring world where the petrol industry controls the economy. Moreover, the elemination of official environmental policies and R&D's official programs could be reasons why the EV1 was abandonned without any official helps. Even if some models were given to museums or engineering schools, the EV1 was scrapped with the electric revolution which was growing up slowly in the USA. The rise of the hydrogen vehicle was be another reason argued by GM. At that time, the hydrogen vehicles were considered as a better alternative to the internal combustion. Fifteen years later, GM was wrong by stopping the production of the EV1.


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