General Motors waits for the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show on January 4th, 1996 to announce it will construct an electric vehicle, called the EV1, to be available in the fall of the same year. Since electric cars had existed since the automobile industry’s nascent days, saying that the EV1 was an entirely unique concept would have been false.
The Columbia Runabout, which was able to drive 40 miles on only one charge, came about in the early 20th century; this became a best seller and was able to drive 15 miles per hour. Time.com was noted to say, “Before her husband Henry’s mass production of gas-powered cars crushed the electric industry, Clara Ford drove a 1914 Detroit Electric, which could last 80 miles without a charge.” Several factors contributed to renew interest in electric cars such as a burgeoning movement regarding the environment coupled with the 1970s oil crisis; however, automakers were unsuccessful to create an electric car that gained mass appeal.
The EV1 was availably made to be purchased in only two states when in 1996 it made its’ debut. California and Arizona were the two states as well as being available for lease-only since GM thought of the development of technology for the electric car was ongoing. Roughly 2,500 EV1s were built in total during it’s’ years in development from 1996 to 1999. The company would eventually announce in 2003 that the EV1 program would have its’ plug pulled as well as stopping new leases.
The reason for the demise of the EV1 given by GM was maintaining and producing the cars ran too high of a cost. Yet, the Los Angeles Times in 2009 said, “The EV1 began in the 1990s as a response to a zero-emission vehicle mandate by California’s Air Resources Board….When, finally, GM and other automakers managed to get California to soften its zero-emission mandate in 2002, [GM CEO Rick] Wagoner promptly canceled the program.” Interestingly, this time period saw other carmakers show off their own electric cars and then discontinued them such as the RAV4 EV from Toyota that was able to be purchased from 1997 to 2003.
Staging a fake funeral while holding a vigil located at the Los Angeles- area GM facility, environmental activists became vocal regarding the demise of the EV1; the facility had impounded many of the EV1s that eventually were terminated. GM would find itself hit hard by 2008 during a global economic crisis as well as auto sales were at an extreme low-point; the company was forced to acquire from the federal government a multi-billion-dollar bailout loan just to stay in business.
Company CEO Wagoner would be ousted by the administration of Obama in March of 2009; GM was forced to file for bankruptcy in April of the same year. Although there was an increasing demand by consumers for more fuel-efficient and smaller cars, the company became criticized for focusing constantly on developing small trucks and sport-utility automobiles. Wagoner was said to have been quoted saying that the EV1 program that had its plug pulled as well as not allocating more development resources in creating hybrid gas-electric automobiles was a huge error of his career.