EV1 Electric Car: Did it Suck or Not?


Nick D. emailed us this usenet post about GM's now defunct electric car, the star of Who Killed the Electric Car?, the EV1. In the post, a certain Doug Wickstrom claims to work at Hughes Electronics, the division of GM that produced the electric car. He then goes on (see full quote below) to explain all of the reasons why - according to him - the EV1.. well, sucked. Anti-EV1 propaganda by some random person using the anonymity of usenet to pretend to be an insider? The ugly truth? Or maybe it's based on facts, but needs to be nuanced (the EV1 might not have been ready for prime time, but could these problems be solved with current technology?).

We know that we have at least a couple of electric car drivers reading this website. We'd really love to hear their opinion on this in the comments, as well as the opinion of anybody who has something to say about it.

crushed ev1 electric cars

Here is the usenet post:

Some facts about the EV1, the research and development of which was produced by _my_ division of GM, Hughes Electronics:

General Motors lost two billion dollars on the project, and lost money on every single EV1 produced. The leases didn't even cover the costs of servicing them.

The range of 130 miles is bogus. None of them ever achieved that under normal driving conditions. Running the air conditioning or heater could halve that range. Even running the headlights reduced it by 10%.

Minimum recharge time was two hours using special charging stations that except for fleet use didn't exist. The effective recharge time, using the equipment that could be installed in a lessee's garage, was eight hours. Home electrical systems simply couldn't handle the necessary current draw for "fast" charging.

NiMH batteries that had lasted up to three years in testing were failing after six months in service. There was no way to keep them from overheating without doubling the size of the battery pack. Lead-acid batteries were superior to NiMH in actual daily use.

Battery replacement was a task performed by skilled technicians taking the sorts of precautions that electricians do when working on live circuits, because that's what they were doing -- working on live circuits. You cannot turn batteries "off." This is the reason the vehicles were leased, rather than sold. As long as the terms of the lease prohibited maintenance by other than a Hughes technician, GM's liability in the event of a screw-up was much reduced. Technicians can encounter high voltages in hybrid vehicles. In the EV1, there were _really_ high voltages present.

Lessees were complaining that their electric bills had increased to the point that they'd rather be using gasoline.

One of the guys I worked with transferred to the EV1 program after what was by then a division of Raytheon lost the C-130 ATS contract. He's now back working for us. He has some interesting stories, none of them good, though he did like the company-subsidized apartment in Malibu. He said the car was a dream to drive, if you didn't mind being stranded between Bakersfield and Barstow on a hot July afternoon when a battery blew up from the combined heat of the day and the current draw.

More on Electric Cars
::TreeHuggerTV: Who Killed the Electric Car?
::Smithsonian Kills the Electric Car
::Interview with "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Contributor
Interested in electric cars? Check out: 17 Electric Cars You Must Know About