The EV1 was made available through limited lease-only agreements, initially to residents of the cities of Los Angeles, California, and Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona
Gen I cars had a AC induction motor and a 16.5-kWh lead-acid battery pack. In 1999, GM released Gen II cars with 18.7-kWh lead-acid batteries, and later upgraded them further with 26.4-kWh nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries. The electric motor, produced 137 horsepower and 149 newton-meters of torque.
GM advertised the EV1’s range as 70 to 90 miles. This range is similar to the range provided by the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubhishi iMiev i and Mahindra e2o back in the late 90s!
Many customers wanted to buy an EV1. It was smooth, quiet, fast, super high tech and the EV1 had a cult following.
At that time, GM told potential customers that the EV1 cant be sold in all markets, as it had to do with the newness of the technology and the fact that it was not suitable in cold climates.
Tom Hanks, the famous Hollywood actor was a lessee. He praised the car on late-night talk shows, saying "Believe it or not, that sucker goes!"
In 2003, the company started recalling all leased vehicles. Anyone who refused to hand over their EV1 got a home visit from a tow truck sent to impound the vehicles. Groups of EV1 drivers sent letters and deposit checks to GM, requesting lease extensions at no risk or cost to the automaker. The drivers reportedly agreed to be responsible for the maintenance and repair costs of the EV1, and would allow GM the right to terminate the lease if expensive repairs were needed. On June 28, GM famously refused the offer and returned the checks, which totaled $22,000.
The demise of the EV1 is the subject of a 2006 documentary film entitled Who Killed the Electric Car?. Much of the film accounts for GM's efforts to demonstrate to California that there was no demand for their product and then to reclaim every last EV1 and dispose of them.
GM did respond to the documentary by saying that there was
no demand for such cars and crushed the last EV1 in 2006
I guess we will never know.
At that time, despite people's best efforts, it looked like there was no escape from the oil guzzling, atmospheric polluting internal combustion engine.
But the legend of the EV1 lived on and four years later due to pent up consumer demand for vehicles with alternate propulsion and the rise of Tesla Motors, GM started investing in the development of the Chevy Volt.
By mid 2013, most major automobile manufacturers have provided American customers with an EV as an option. The world is following suit.
But lets all remember this - The EV1 will always be remembered as the pioneer of the modern EV industry.