I’ll Second That

Automotive News has a timely editorial concerning the EV-1 which I once drove. Here are some of the photos.

GM EV-1 (right) in 1997.

Prompted by AN, I took out my photos from 1997 and found the shots from the day I drove the EV-1 (top, right) in California. The salesman at the car dealership presented the EV-1 as a something for enthusiasts (which contrasted with the sludge I expect he was selling). The idea was that the EV-1 would appeal to people still interested in the technology and car-ness of cars. At the time I was a bit cynical about the GM car. 90 miles didn’t really seem that impressive although even today a 90 mile range would be very useful for most people’s daily needs. I got that wrong then. The Bolt has a 238 mile range.

1997 GM EV-1: source
1997 GM EV-1: source

I’d really like to have a clearer recollection of the experience now other than that I recall clearly the EV-1’s impressive acceleration and the iffy ergonomics of the buttons. What I’d like to do is also look at the car with my current set of eyes. It looks fabulous in photos now, doesn’t it? Would I think the same if I saw a real one?

At the time I did not really understand what I was looking at. Bearing in mind the technology available, (1997) the EV-1 had a very credible range of 90 miles. With a revised set of batteries that reached 130 miles. And I was obsessed with the button graphics.

Here´s a clearer image of the EV-Plus: source
Here´s a clearer image of the EV-Plus: source

The main photo above shows another car, the Honda EV Plus. I drove that too and had forgotten about it.

1997 GM EV-1 interior
1997 GM EV-1 interior

While GM is (rightly) excoriated for totally destroying the EV-1’s, Honda also took back their EV-Plus vehicles (only 340 made) and killed all if them albeit in a nicer way, by recycling them. GM flattened theirs, which was rather tastelessly violent. However, GM are seen as the meanies. The really dumb thing was not to build on the EV-1 experience. Instead as soon as GW Bush’s administration demonstrated its indifference to resource conservation GM pointedly ceased their EV work. Well done, good move.

1997 Honda EV-Plus interior.
1997 Honda EV-Plus interior.

It won’t surprise you to know that I remember nothing at all about the Honda EV-Plus other than it it was almost exactly like every other small Honda I’d driven. That was perhaps the point too. Honda wanted to show that an EV could look and function like a conventional car while GM wanted the EV-1 to display its USP and to feel like it was worth all the money they were asking from customers who leased one.

On balance GM got the EV-1 wrong as a package, cool as it was. And they got it wrong in abandoning their EV research. I am glad I got to try it though and in a broader EV market, the EV-1 would probably be a contender.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

14 thoughts on “I’ll Second That”

  1. I am quite jealous of your experience with the EV1. In the hands of another company it might have been a contender. It strikes me that GM has been chastened by bankruptcy, hence its perseverance with the Volt and Bolt.

  2. Regarding GM abandoning the research I do not agree since they were working on Skateboard and Sequel concepts after the EV1 demise. While both these are Hydrogen fueled they are still electrically driven.
    The EV1 program ended in 2004 with the recall and destruction of 1,117 cars, since all were owned by GM they were entitled to dispose as they saw fit and crushing was probably the most economical choice.
    Volt sales started late 2010 in the USA so its development a few years earlier was at the end of the EV1 and its known some of its tech/knowledge was carried into the Volt.
    I think they did the right thing choosing a high volume extended range car over a limited volume two seat car.

    1. I phrased that badly. I meant abandoning the market in the way they did. It was Honda and Toyota who made the next and larger steps in alternative power trains. I think GM did do further research but it seems to have been for some other purpose other than selling cars directly. The HyWire was rather prescient but it did not lead to anything directly. Indeed, it is true that GM owned the EV cars. Wasn´t scrapping them a rather violent signal to send? Honda did exactly the same thing, effectively but managed to make it seem a lot less aggressive. And they followed up with the Insight of 1999 (another very appealing car).

  3. We must remember this was early days in the movement and the California mandate dropping had a lot to do with the demise of the EV1.
    Toyota alone has been the catalyst having the most influence in getting buyers into this technology by offering a mainstream product that has evolved into varied forms. Honda remained in its shadow because their chosen design was most efficient in a two seat low volume product like the EV1, move up to a family size car and it’s somewhat lacking.
    The limited electric running in a Prius has probably had more influence on people to want pure electric drive than any expensive low volumn two seater, this was certainly my experience in moving from an Insight to a Prius and then a leaf.
    Now that GM has released the 238 mile full electric 5 seat Bolt maybe they can be forgiven.

    1. Indeed: the Bolt’s range is not far off a Citroen CX GTi (better, possibly). So, yes, apart from the name (I see a metal bolt not a bolt of lightning or a bolt of cloth) it’s more than mere pennance.

  4. I’m having the 1997 photo reprinted. The day of the photography was clear and bright. The photos are now very much less blue. I will also transfer the negatives to a CD and upload one for comparison. Is there some chemical change that makes photos alter their balance? My photos have been in a box for 19 years. Sun damage is not the reason.

    1. Yes, the chemicals used to develop photographs ‘go off’ over time, either through oxidisation or acids in the paper. There is no particular way to stop it, apparent from possibly storing them in a vacuum.

    1. Yes, all stock degrades over time. Top quality photographic prints are rated for 60 years in dark storage, but in reality any number of environmental or qualitative factors can have an effect. In the case of cinema, the master films still degrade with time, albeit slowly, so every subsequent copy exhibits changes in colour balance. As for certain times being associated with certain tones, that is more likely to do with the availability of film stocks at different points in time.

      Digital media gives us the chance to maintain perfect copies, but these are prey to their own sets of foibles dictated at the point of archive, primarily image size. Films that have been captured, edited and mastered digitally rely on the technology that created them being available in perpetuity. As anyone that has ever tried to run a Windows 95 game on a current PC will know, that perpetuity does not exist.

    2. Yes. You youngsters have got that to look forward to :

      “Jay Peg? Wozzat Grand-dad? Naaah, we don’t have anything that reads one of them. Everything’s geared up for 4D now. You’d best chuck those (snigger) memory cards.”

      Having survived the 1970s as an adult, I can confirm that they were, for a large part, crap, but not quite as faded and murky crap as a lot of old films and photos would have you believe.

  5. Richard. Depending on where you got them processed and printed originally, that can be a problem. Lab quality varied a lot with automated processing and printing. Maybe the prints weren’t fixed properly.

  6. GM were right to abandon the Bolt. It was too soon to try while the world still craved V8s. Ask Nissan who cannot sell the Leaf. The fact is alternative fuel cars and Hybrid engineering only exist on Government subsidises.

    1. The Japanese have tended to go with the flow on regulations while the US firms have dug their heels in and claimed regulations were impossible to meet. The Japanese were ready for unleaded, crash requirements and lower CAFE. They were ready with more reliable cars. If and when there is more demand for alternative power trains they’ll have two decades of experience that Ford, GM and FCA don’t have. By spending a relatively small sum on hybrids and el-cars they have hedged their bets. The other makers remind me of a person complaining about all the trouble involved in putting on a safety belt when the cost-benefit is so clearly stacked in favour of using the belt. The Japanese have done very well in going with the flow.

    2. Would that be like the fossil fuel industry subsidies? If so apparently they are over four times as much and have been in place for decades.
      Leaf sales at 170,000 may seem low but there are factors such as other new models imminent with longer ranges affecting sales of the first generation cars. One only has to look at the money being invested by virtually every manufacturer in electrifying their range to come to the conclusion that the future will be electric.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: