Even to this day, there are rumours, mistruths and mystery surrounding General Motors and the now infamous EV1 electric vehicle of the day. This was an electric vehicle which had a journey capacity in excess of 100 miles - more than some of the modern-day electric vehicles and was introduced in a blaze of glory in 1996, only to be withdrawn in 1999 and all vehicles crushed. So, why did GM crush all EV1 vehicles?
The reality is that we will never get to the bottom of the reason why General Motors decided to effectively crush the electric vehicle market and what was behind the push to market in 1996 which had turned sour by 1999. However, we will now take a look at some of the facts of the day to see exactly what went on.
Lack of demand
Many anti-electric vehicles individuals and groups will suggest time and time again that there was a lack of demand for the EV1, when in reality General Motors mentioned on numerous occasions it would be able to lease as many as it could make. Demand for this vehicle was enormous and in 1996 when initial feedback was received from first-time buyers, this demand continued to grow.
It was too expensive to produce
Again, the cost of the EV1 has been and continues to be a focal point of those who dismissed electric vehicles at the time. Despite the fact that General Motors had invested a large amount of money in this particular project, which had been ongoing for many years, there was certainly enough demand to make a commercial argument in favour of continuing with electric vehicles. If the cost of an EV1 was too expensive compared to the leasing price, why did the company even begin to manufacture EV1s?
Quote from ElectricForum.com : "I shot this video of Martin O'Malley, the Governor of Maryland, driving the Spark EV at the GM's Baltimore operations yesterday. This is the first official production electric car for GM (the EV1 was not available to the public) and they are building the electric motors and transmissions at the Baltimore facility."
The California Air Resources Board had no influence
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) did in the eyes of many people play a very important role in the introduction of the EV1 back in 1996. Under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency, a U.S. federal agency, to reduce carbon emissions the board introduced the zero emission vehicle directive to reduce emissions by the federal government's target of 10%. Quite simply, CARB made it compulsory for 10% of all vehicles sold in California to be zero emission vehicles – simple!
This all began very well to helping to introduce the EV1 to the marketplace but a number of changes in personnel and the introduction of a heavily oil-based U.S. government is rumoured by many to have forced CARB to withdraw its initial guidelines under threat of "legal action". Quite who was behind this "potential legal action" has never been revealed but many experts believe the oil companies had some say in this particular development.
Despite the fact there was demand for the EV1 for some reason GM decided to lease all vehicles as opposed to sell them outright. There was an argument for leasing them to customers, with the idea of improving the technology going forward and offering free upgrades, but was this really the reason?
The truth is that we will never know why GM suddenly decided to recall and crush all EV1 vehicles and why indeed the company decided to lease rather than sell outright. Arguments with regards to journey capacity have been blown out of the water and the fact that GM actually acquired the battery company which supplied the power for the EV1 is another mystery. Some experts believe that GM never really intended to improve or fully utilise the new nickel battery power available for the EV1 and was indeed looking to stifle growth in electric vehicles and crush the market. Then again, don’t we all love a conspiracy theory?