My day with the GM EV1 - Road Joy

GM has designed a masterwork, the GM EV1 Electric car, and in a month, this car will no longer be available for rental, as they are taking them all to be crushed. Since the EV1 was only leased, never sold, every one of them will be gone from the roads by 2004. You cannot buy them for any price. Perhaps they want to remove the evidence that EV's can actually work.

This all electric powered car turns Road Rage into Road Joy. 

California created a requirement for automakers to sell 10% of cars in the state by the year 2003 with zero emissions. Ford purchased the Th!nk electric car manufacturing company and began turning out NEV's (Low speed Neighborhood electric vehicles) and planning for a freeway capable car, the City, Chrysler did the same with their purchase of GEM (Global Electric Motorcars). GM made a deal with an EV maker as well, but went further and designed an EV from the ground up, made 1000 of them, and it is a masterwork. I moved to California specifically so I could drive an Electric car.

California this year caved in to pressure and lawsuits from automakers, stating that they cannot meet the mandate, and the ZEV mandate was scrapped, to be filled instead with vehicles based again on 100% gasoline based energy (hybrids). In response, all major automakers dumped their EV programs, including the Th!nk City EV that I was on the waiting list for. 

Budget Car rental at LAX rents the EV1, they have 2 left. I highly recommend that you see this car, it is one of a kind, and a well spent $50. I was lucky to find a free parking spot on the road next to Budget, a rarity near LAX!


Hanging out at the home turf of the Oil producers, enemy territory. This is not the newer EV1 version 2 with higher capacity Nimh batteries, but the older model with less range.


Everybody you pass is fascinated by this car, even jaded LA drivers. Note the stickers on the back, allowing EV's to use the carpool lane with only one passenger. The small highly inflated low-rolling resistance tires do tend to follow grooves in the highway, so you need to keep a tight hand on the wheel.


No need for oil pumps here. The range when I first got the car was 65 miles, and I did not plan my time too well. I had planned to meet a celebrity friend in Hollywood, then pickup a business partner at LAX and drive him to Seal Beach after a power charge, but with no time to charge I headed right to Seal Beach, 15 miles away with 20 miles estimated. Normally this would not be a problem, except I got incorrect directions from Yahoo Maps, which said "take the North South Exit" - huh? So 5 extra miles and I was drifting toward Seal Beach with no charge left and warning lights flashing, but I knew there was a charging spot at the pier. After asking directions, we slowly glided into the parking spot and found the electric spot - with an SUV in our space! Luckily we could make the cord reach and got plugged in. But I was worried, there was no charge being delivered, it still said 0%. Sure enough, it was a small paddle plug, so I got the large paddle adaptor and it started juicing up. Had dinner at Ruby's 50's Diner at the end of the pier, it was excellent!

With only a 2 hour charge I got 40+ miles of range, so I went 80mph on the freeway back to LAX, and in this car, that seems like warp speed! The heavy batteries make for a very smooth ride. I parked and plugged in for the night at the Budget lot and went to my hotel, the Crowne Plaza, next door to the Budget office.

The next day, with 75 miles of range, I cruised down the winding Sunset Boulevard from Hollywood to the beach, and it hugged the road like a glove, a highly recommended drive!


The all-digital dashboard.


A few second later, driving patterns adjust the range estimate, now it is higher.


Hanging out at Farmers market. 

This car has a really big trunk, which includes a trickle charger you can plug into a 110v outlet in a pinch.

GM keeps repeating the same line about this car:

"We spent a billion dollars on this project and it's time to move on". What I never hear them say are these facts:

bullet1000+ cars were made and ALL were leased, you could not get one if you wanted one.
bulletThe lease rates were between $300 and $600 per month - not cheap.
bulletThey were all leased from 1997 to 2003, now figuring just 4 out of those 6 years they were leased with an average lease price of $500 per month, that is $24,000 income per car, that's 1000 happy users, and that's 24 million in income minimum from these cars, not a paltry sum. A smaller manufacturer would have figured out a way to make these numbers work.


A car which requires no key at the Key Club. The car uses a PIN number to open the doors and to turn on the power. Here is a secret: The number to start the car is printed on the car - don't tell anyone!


The control panel looks like a video game. Parking brake is built into the parking gear. Lower right is the PIN code entry to turn the car on, lower left is on button, lock button. Left is climate controls. Right are power windows. Above that are Miles/Kilometers switch, reset trip meter, etc. Upper left are more climate controls.

Watch the brake and hold it hard, this car wants to roll and move forward! The speed sensitive regenerative braking works very well, taking energy gulps from various levels of braking and coasting downhill. The brakes work very well when you are going fast!


The standard stereo is quite poor, but played CDR's fine.


Find the key hole! Find the cup-holders! Nope, none of those either. One major issue with this car may have been that it only had two seats, because how many 2 seat cars are sold altogether? I recall that when the Honda Insight Hybrid came out, you could not get them, too much demand, same with the first Toyota Prius, and now there are Honda Civic hybrids as well and more to come. notice a pattern? Too much for GM to say there is no demand for innovative cars. I have heard there was a waiting list of several thousand when this car was cancelled.

This is a sporty car and very low to the ground and fun to drive. It takes off like a rocket!


The ultimate irony - a Prius in my spot and I can't plug in! Oh well.


an SUV with flat tires... EV mischief? OK SUV, you have won this round, but electric cars will be back someday in some form.

If you have the opportunity, try out this car before it is gone forever, and see what the future of cars holds. You can call Gail at Budget EV Rental at 310-678-1723.

Clearly this was a car before it's time. Thanks!

Brad's Electric Car Page

Brad Waddell

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