Father of GM EV1 Discusses Future of Electric Vehicles; Says He Won’t Retire Until…


Back in 1996, in at interview with Motor Trend magazine, Bob Purcell Bob Purcell, executive director of General Motors’ electric vehicle program, spoke highly of GM’s first-ever electric vehicle, the EV1.

Bob Purcell Nows Heads Up Protean Motors, a Manufacturer of In-Wheel Electric Motors

Bob Purcell Nows Heads Up Protean Motors, a Manufacturer of In-Wheel Electric Motors

Purcell told Motor Trend that he firmly believed that the EV1 would find its niche and compete against the world’s best $30,000-plus two-seaters.  That never happened as GM promptly cancelled its electric vehicle efforts and famously “took back” all the EV1s out there.

Still, what Purcell told Motor Trend back then is the same sort of story we’re hearing today.  Quoting a portion of Purcell’s 1996 interview with Motor Trend:

“There are no tuneups.  There are no oil changes. It’s powered by an electric motor and you don’t service electric motors. There’s none of that stuff. So if you want a car in the household that represents a real time savings, this is it. You use it just for short-distance driving. And you don’t have to put a whole lot of attention into it. You bring it home at night, and you plug it into the charger, and you go out the next morning and drive it. Then, you come home at night and put it back on the charger. You never stop at a gas station. So you’re not going to drive it to Aunt Martha’s two states over, obviously. That’s what kind of product it is.”

Sound familiar?

Now, Purcell is back at it again, this time as chief executive officer at Protean, a developer and manufacturer of in-wheel electric motors.

Purcell, a 45-year automotive veteran and 20-year electric vehicle experts, tells Forbes that there’s no way he’ll retire when the EV industry is so close to a breakthrough.

In Purcell’s words:

“I’m not going to retire until I get one to high volume for real.  I’ll be honest. I think we’re there.”

Purcell’s story today hasn’t changed much from back in 1996, except he now tells it in a different way:

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10 Comments on "Father of GM EV1 Discusses Future of Electric Vehicles; Says He Won’t Retire Until…"

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Mark Hovis

Great article

Eric Loveday

Thanks Mark…Digging up that Motor Trend interview was challenging, but definitely adds to the story.


I wonder what he drives.

Martin Tesar

Nice Article,
All the EV1 people did it tough and we all benefited.


I am not joking: I seriously have an Aunt Martha who lives two states over. And I’ve got an EV which won’t be taking me to visit her. Prescience indeed, at least with respect to me, Mr. Purcell.


Damn, I still want the EV1… badly…


According to Fox Business, we’re not supposed to buy Electric Cars 🙂

Great to see a dedicated guy who knows that the electric vehicle breakthrough is actually happening and that a growth curve aiming “upwards” is an uptrend. Don’t tell that to Fox News. They must continue to provide “opinion as news – news as entertainment”


Every news organization does the same thing. Fox leans right and is pretty open about it. The rest lean left to varying degrees, and some try to pretend that they don’t.

I like that Fox also includes liberal commentators to foster some interesting debate. MSNBC is nothing but liberals agreeing with each other.


If you have a Tesla S w 300 mile range you can visit 2 states away and more. Once the Fats Chargers and Tesla Super Chargers are all across the highways you can go anyplace you want. You make have to stop and rest and eat but the EV can keep up!

Times have changed. This is just the beginning.

George Bower

This was a great article….I’m an EV1 fan to the max.
I can remember reading about it during development and thought how cool it was…..and I didn’t even know about global warming then.