The world is becoming inundated with new, interesting battery-electric vehicles from a variety of automakers. Amidst the growing excitement, you’ve gotta respect the innovators and prior efforts to experiment with electrification that helped carve out the path that seems to be pointing the way forward for mass personal transportation. Cars like, say, the General Motors EV1.
Naturally, when this General Motors EV1 was discovered in an Atlanta Parking garage yesterday, people took notice. The story was first reported by The Drive after a Twitter user Jacob Hoyle discovered the car and tagged editor Mike Spinelli, including a few pictures and equally few words: “Found an EV1 today.” Casual.
The tweet went up like a signal flare, whipping car Twitter into a frenzy as hurried plans for retrieval came together like a late game desperation blitz.
It turns out, this is not the first time that this specific EV1 was discovered. In 2016, John Thomas, a member of a Facebook group called “Chevy Volt Owners” spotted the same EV1 parked in the same place, albeit a little less dust-covered than it was when Mr. Hoyle happened upon it some three years later.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the EV1, the significance of this finding might interest you only as far as any other neglected ‘90s car with a layer of dust on it. Rest assured, this is a special find.
The General Motors EV1’s arrival in 1996 was meant to appease a mandate released by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) requiring the major automakers to produce and sell zero-emission vehicles if they wanted to continue selling other vehicles in California. The EV1 was offered to folks in a few key markets (Los Angeles, Phoenix, and eventually Sacramento, to name a few) as a limited lease-only arrangement. By most accounts, those who leased these battery-powered all-electric vehicles loved them.
That made it awkward in 2002, when General Motors decided to repossess the vehicles in spite of protesting customers, thanks to a slackening of the CARB regulation that spawned the EV1 in the first place. GM claimed it was shutting down the experiment, based on its calculation that electric cars were an unprofitable niche in the then-present market. If your hat is made of tinfoil, (or even if you just line it with tinfoil because you’re not paranoid or anything) you might say that GM simply axed the program to protect its partners in the oil industry, as well as its considerable investments in subsequent improvements to the internal combustion engine.
Most of the EV1s were crushed, but GM donated 40 examples to museums and educational institutions. Side note: GM removed key parts of these vehicles, such at the batteries, intending that they’d never drive on the road again.
The Atlanta EV1’s stilted front end perhaps indicates that the drive unit and heavy lead-acid battery were removed, but aside from the considerable detritus on the car’s exterior, it appears to be in solid condition. Thomas even indicated in 2016 that the interior still looked to be in great shape.
Regardless of your view on GM’s decision to kill the EV1 project and kneecap the survivors, it’s worth appreciating this bulbous little car’s surprise appearance. It’s an important milestone on the rapidly accelerating journey towards the electrification of mainstream consumer cars.