A decade ago General Motors put one of the coolest cars of all time on the road, the EV1. While there were a number of hard-core EV enthusiasts who became passionately committed to the car, it never caught on with the masses. But that was then and this is now. GM should seriously consider putting the EV1 back into production.
John McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit". Every week he brings his unique insights as an auto industry insider to Autoblog readers. Follow the jump to continue reading this week's editorial.
First off, it would be so simple. The car is already designed, engineered and developed. Why not milk more money out of your intellectual property? All they would have to do is dust off the CAD data. I doubt the tooling is lying around, so it would have to be duplicated. But GM could bring the EV1 back into production far faster than a typical new program would take.
And this time around demand would be brisk. When the EV1 came out gasoline was selling for a little over $1 dollar a gallon in the U.S. and people had absolutely no interest in a two-seater that could barely travel 70 miles per charge. Today, with gas at $4 a gallon, there's a totally different mindset out there. People are desperate to slash their commuting costs. The EV1 would draw in a lot more people today than it did a decade ago.
I was wowed by the EV1 when it came out. It was a terrific little car, fast off the line, with crisp handling and a driving experience unlike anything else on the road. The early ones had an aggressive regenerative braking program that slowed the car noticeably when you backed off the accelerator. You could dive into turns, back off, and not have to touch the brakes. And man was that car quiet! In fact, at low speeds you could even hear the hushed ssssshhhhh of the rear brake pads pressing against the drums as you came to a stop.
One of my favorite features was a keypad on the center console that allowed you to program the temperature inside the car. You could choose the time of day for the heater or ac to come on. For example, if you had to drive off on a cold winter morning, you could set it to be toasty warm five minutes before you left the house. On a hot summer day you could program the air conditioning to come on before you had to go anywhere. It was as easy as setting an alarm clock. And it ensured the batteries would always be "topped off" instead of taking a big hit from the HVAC.
I should add that all my driving in the EV1 was done with the first generation which only had simple lead-acid batteries. Later versions had nickel-metal hydride batteries. The point is, I was knocked out by the car even with the lowest tech batteries available.
Remember, the prototype for the EV1, called the GM Impact, was done by the late Paul McCready and his elite team of crack engineers at Aerovironment. McCready was one of the most creative inventors this country has ever produced and it would be great to see his legacy live on by bringing the EV1 back.
GM offered the EV1 through Saturn dealers in Southern California. Imagine what a new EV1 could do for Saturn right now. People would flock to the showrooms, something that Saturn desperately needs because even with one of the most handsome line-ups of vehicles in the business, sales are tepid.
Of course, if it were ever to consider reviving the EV1, GM should follow through on its original plan to sell the car worldwide this time around. That would give it the economies of scale it needs to finally turn a profit on it.
Reviving the EV1 would be front page news around the world. It would be the perfect complement to the Volt, and put GM's "green cred" right up there with Toyota and Honda. Just as importantly, GM could finally shake that "Who Killed The Electric Car?" monkey off its back.
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