Bánhegyi László Gábor
Corvinus University of Budapest
Case study of General Motors’ EV1
A brief history
California Air Resources Board
Hydrogen Fuel Cell
In my childhood I always was a fan of everything which had wheels. Naturally the sports cars were my favorite. At that time, I did not care too much about the maintaining costs, including gas prices and not a bit about environmentally friendliness of these fuel devouring monsters.
When I grew up, things had changed. I had started to be interested in a lot of other aspects. For example, the velocity of the car became less important when I saw a car, while the gas consumption gained a bigger part in my preferences. The main cause of this was mainly because of fuel prices, but a little slice of my brain coded to care about the environment so it was obvious that my car cannot consume too much in order to maintain the condition of the air.
Considering the mentioned facts about my “long” history with automobiles, I think it is clear why I choose the topic of electric cars to write about.
This essay will be a case study of General Motors’ EV1 prototype and its way from the beginnings till the end, based on the virtuous documentary film of Chris Paine. Of course I will provide some up to date data and I will complement it with my opinion to help the understanding of the topic. This case study maybe could look a little outdated but its story is a very good example of today’s economic, political interests and how interested groups treat unbeneficial situations.
“I’m saving America by driving electric cars” – Tom Hanks
A brief history
As I mentioned before, this essay is based on the documentary film titled “Who Killed the Electric Car?” directed by Chris Paine. The director’s movie created in 2006, so six years ago. The status of electric cars had changed since then, but I thought this case is very expressive to present the battle of powers in nowadays world. The tale of the EV1 is one of the most controversial cases in the modern history of cars. Because of its very limited production and the huge media attention generated by the scandals, it became a very strong symbol of the electric cars’ success and failure also. (Greeencar.com, 2012)
1. Picture - General Motors EV1, source: www.motor-talk.de
The beginnings of the GM EV1 rooted back to the 1980s. A company specialized to energy efficiency researches, AeroVironment, started to develop a car which is totally powered by electricity. The leader of this project was Dr. Paul MacCready, a well-known aeronautical engineer from the United States, who unfortunately passed away in 2007. After years of development the concept car, named GM Impact was introduced to the audiences at the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show. (AeroVironment Website, 2012) At that time, another important event happened. In the 1990s, California was in a pollution crisis because of the smog which had very unbeneficial effect on people’s health. The California Air Resource Board had to find a solution for this problem, so they wanted to decrease the amount of gases coming from cars. Inspired by the recent announcement of General Motors about an electric vehicle prototype, they created the Zero Emissions Mandate (ZEV). It required 2% of new vehicles sold in California to be emission-free by 1998, 10% by 2003. It was a very drastic smog-fighting mandate. (California Air Resources Board, 2012) The first EV1 rolled out from the Lansing GM factory in 1996 and after three years the production had shut down in December 1999. From the beginning GM sold more than 1000 cars in California, US. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) “Coincidently” at the same time in December 1999, there was an interesting event. General Motors finalized the purchase of the Hummer...
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