One automotive writer who test drove and fell in love with the GM EV1 electric car years ago would like to make sure mistakes won’t get repeated again with the rollout of the all-electric Chevy Bolt later this year.
In 1998, Automotive News columnist Richard Truett, who then wrote for the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, test drove the GM EV1 two-seat electric car.
One a road trip over Interstate 4, Truett was able to hum along at 70 mpg in a noiseless and vibrationless electric car. It had everything including air conditioning and power steering, but it felt like the car of the future – something George Jetson would drive.
“The car felt so right. I was convinced the future was electric. There was no car in the world like the EV1 at the time,” Truett said.
Truett’s respect for GM and wonder with the EV1 took a turn. The EV1 had only been available in two states, California and Arizona, and the electric car ended production in 1999 only after about 1,100 had been built.
About a decade ago, Truett was attending an automotive media event at GM’s old proving ground in Mesa, Ariz. He saw remnants of the EV1, “crushed and stacked on each other like trash.”
“That floored me,” he said.
Truett’s disappointment with GM has been shared with others. Truett has found that GM officials of the past and present have said that “killing the EV1 was one of the worst decisions the company ever made.”
Criticism of GM on the EV1 was explored 10 years ago in the film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” The documentary, written and directed by Chris Paine, took GM to task for killing the EV1, but also raised questions about other parties failing to keep the EV1 alive, including the California Air Resources Board.
Truett was able to get a response from GM to his commentary, from Mark Reuss, GM’s current head of product development, in a Facebook post.
“The people who let EV1 perish are not here. The people who make Volts, Bolts, etc are here engineering and making them. While we work for an entity or holding company which is similar — the people who define the entity are completely different. Time to think of GM as who it IS, not who it WAS,” Reuss commented on Facebook.
Reuss and GM’s executive management do have a shot at coming back in PEV leadership. The Chevy Bolt will be the first production level all-electric car built since the EV1 17 years ago. It’s 238 miles per charge range and price point around $30,000 after tax rebates will make it competitive, Reuss said.
Truett sees the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid as a good example of GM learning from its mistakes made during production of the EV1. While the first-generation Volt didn’t sell as well as GM had hoped, GM engineers resolved the problems in the next version.
“The new Volt is faster, lighter, far more efficient and less expensive than the original. That’s progress, the kind that would have come had the EV1 remained in production,” Truett said.