• May 19, 2008
The General Motors EV1 has turned into one of the largest scapegoats in the automotive industry. Many people believe that the futuristic electric car was put to pasture long before its full usefulness had been met, a controversial viewpoint supported by the Chris Paine film, "Who Killed the Electric Car." To those conspiracy theorists, Angus MacKenzie at Motor Trend has another take to offer: blame CARB. While the California Air Resources Board has been blamed for many things, the death of the electric car is not often one of them. But MacKenzie quotes Howard Wilson, a man deeply involved in the EV1 program, as suggesting that the engineering team wanted to make the electric car a hybrid using a small gas turbine engine which could make enough electricity for the electric motors without a large battery. This could have reduced the weight of the vehicle and increased its range exponentially. Why didn't they do it? CARB had mandated that the automakers needed to offer at least two percent of their fleets as zero emission vehicles, which effectively sealed the fate of the hybrid EV1. These happenings left the door wide open for other companies, Toyota in particular, to carve out the hybrid niche for themselves. The rest, as they say, is history.
[Source: Motor Trend]


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  • 67 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      "CARB had mandated that the automakers needed to offer at least two percent of their fleets as zero emission vehicles, which effectively sealed the fate of the hybrid EV1. "

      I don't get it, killing the EV1 didn't put GM any closer to the 2%. Why would making it a hybrid be any different?
        • 6 Years Ago
        BMW didn't make a hybrid.
        Mercedes didn't make a hybrid.
        VW didn't make a hybrid.
        Renault/Peugeot didn't make a hybrid.

        In fact none of them a hybrid to this day (unless you count the Nissan Altima hybrid). Unlike GM!

        Yes, comparatively to Honda and Toyota, GM was shortsighted. But given that this level of foresight was the exception, I prefer to just say Honda and Toyota were farsighted.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Interesting you picked the three makes that already had Prius stomping diesels in the 1990s.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Trucking industry has a lobby. All the average joe has is a vote (good for nothing).
        • 6 Years Ago
        I get that part of it but this wans't the reason for GM not going on to make a hybrid, it was GMs short-sightedness.
        • 6 Years Ago
        They don't have Prius stomping Diesels. Not then, not now. None of them make a car the size of the Prius that gets the mpg of a Prius (the Prius is rated at about 65mpg in the EU cycle), and that's before you account for the extra energy in a gallon of Diesel.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I still find CA SMOG laws are less strict than Europe. That said I wish there was a law that exempts automotive enthuses from emission laws.
      • 6 Years Ago
      CARB effectively killed the diesel passenger car in the USA and Canada.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Commiefornia shouldn't be allowed to make up their own emissions laws. There should be 1 federal requirement. Instead, because of Commiefornia and the other states we have a ridiculous number of gasoline formulations for each state that further reduces oil refining capacity and push prices even higher.

        • 6 Years Ago
        I would butt out of Californias business, but YOUR rules are effecting me...a thousand miles away because all these do-gooder wanna bees try to be like Cali. If I wanted to put up with California's stupidity, I'd move there.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm pretty sure that was GM.
        • 6 Years Ago
        John:
        There have been no new refineries built in recent years, as fuel usage has risen. Perhaps that has something to do with not having enough refining capacity?
          • 6 Years Ago
          What I can't fathom is why the emissions restrictions on passenger autos is so strict, while every day I pass several truck rigs spewing thick black smoke into the air. They must spurn as much smog in a day as I do in a year, and there's certainly no shortage of them, so the proportion argument goes out the window..
          • 6 Years Ago
          Over zealous environmental laws have made new refineries impossible to build in the US and meet emission requirements.

          The constant switching between formulations is wasting refinery efficiency.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Problem is several of those 49 other states follow California's every move.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Problem is that some of those 49 states have less inhabitants than Manhattan... so your point is mute.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Contrary to what people from California believe, there are actually 49 other states.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Build that low drag EV body shell with a small diesel or diesel hybrid and you would have a fantastic sports car!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm not sure I understand the logic of "leaving the door wide open for other automakers to carve out a hybrid niche." Certainly Toyota didn't any more advantage to produce a hybrid ... it's just that they did it, where GM gave up altogether.
      • 6 Years Ago
      A seven-year old used RAV-4EV with 47,000 miles on it, with bids already over $28,000.

      http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&sspagename=ADME%3AB%3ASS%3AUS%3A1123&viewitem=&item=230254014549

      Yeah, clearly there is no market at all for electric cars.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Its over 50K! $4 gas is sure making people stupid.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Here's what gets me--the schematics weren't burned or buried in the Sahara. It's not like they couldn't just build another round, now is it? Really? A few updates to meet current safety regs and off you go.

      Or, if not, why is that not the case?
        • 6 Years Ago
        And crash requirements have gotten a whole lot tougher in the last 10 years making the EV1 impossible to build under today's requirements.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It was never cost-effective. Without the CARB mandate, there is no way to make selling that car make financial sense.
      • 6 Years Ago
      i say media killed it
        • 6 Years Ago
        CARB forced carmakers to make cars that were money-losers. GM lost $50,000 on each car, so they did not sell anymore than what was required by CARB.

        Does anyone really think GM should make cars that they lose $50,000 per copy on? Seriously?

        Who killed the electric car? Economics.
      • 6 Years Ago
      FYI: Honda quit producing the Insight, a 61mpg car, due to lack of sales. It wasn't profitable, and there simply wasn't enough interest. What now fanboys?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yes CARB killed it. I was unaware this was a new theory.

      When they dropped their 10% ZEV mandate, it killed the electric car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      There's a very simple valid point here. And anyone in the software industry can relate to this. CARB gave their requirement in the form os a solution rather than a requirement.

      Agencies and regulatory bodies need to remember what their policies goals are and just state the goals as requirements. They shouldn't care how they meet the requirements, just that they are met.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The attempt to legislate a new technology into existence was one reason among many for the demise of the vehicle.
      I spent a couple years working with the EV1 development team. The EV1 was a marvelous vehicle whose time had not yet come.

      Here’s why:
      Battery performance was not adequate to provide a meaningful product.
      The vehicle was leased only in warm weather states. Actual range deteriorated to 10 miles in the cold (I observed this driving it to and from the GM Design Center in the Michigan winter) do to the cumulative effect of increased friction on all the motive systems from harder tires to the viscosity of lubricants.
      The car was not feasible to build at a profit. It was a novelty item and a projection of good will on behalf of GM. Actual cost for each vehicle produced, once all expenses were factored in, was into seven figures! The newly appointed head of GM, Rick Wagner, saw these numbers and killed the program. No conspiracy theories, 100-mpg carburetors, or men in black, just the bottom line.

      P.S. – A more seasoned Rick has said that he now regrets pulling the plug.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Thanks for the info. I appreciate info from someone who was there.

        Your comments about the batteries really ring with me because if you watched "Who Killed the Electric Car?" it goes through a rundown of culprits. Nearly everyone gets listed as partially to blame. The only thing he explicitly exonerates is battery technology. He states that battery technology was sufficient to support the product. Which is odd, because battery technology isn't even there today, let alone 5 years ago.
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