GM/Cruise Might Be Embracing EV1 History With ‘AV1’ Trademark

GM Impact concept


In their push towards zero-emissions, General Motors likely wants to change the conversation around the EV1.

General Motors has had a complicated history with electric vehicle development. The GM Impact electric concept car was revealed in 1990 to much acclaim. It had a very unique look in both the exterior and interior. The car was small but sporty compared to other electric vehicles at the time.

The warm reception of the GM concept car partially inspired the California Air Resource Board (CARB) zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate. By 2003, 10% of models being marketed in California would need to be ZEVs. The Impact certainly lived up to its name.

GM Impact Concept Interior

GM Impact Concept Interior

By the middle of the 1990’s, GM announced it would be bringing the Impact to market as the EV1. It would be the first mass-produced electric vehicle put on the market since the early 20th century. Other ZEVs announced at the time were conversions of existing ICE vehicles. But the peppy EV-1 was built from the ground up as an electric car.

The EV1 was only available as a lease and was primarily a test-bed vehicle. Between 1996 and 1999, GM produced 1,117 of the cars. In 2003, GM CEO Rick Wagoner announced the cancellation of the EV1 program.

EV1 Alongside Chevy Volt

EV1 Alongside Chevy Volt

The cars were returned and crushed to great outrage by owners. A few dozen EV1 shells survived, as did a few hundred Chevy S-10 EVs and Rav4 EVs. But most electrics from this period met a similar fate. Later, in a 2006 interview, Rick Wagoner referred to this decision as his biggest regret.

AV1: Autonomous Vehicle 1?

Since the release of the documentary Who Killed The Electric Car, the EV1 name has carried a lot of baggage. But GM is literally a different company today. Before the launch of the Bolt EV, Mark Reuss, GM head of product development said:

The people who make GM change over time. Many leave, many come, many have seen many times. 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. We are not an ‘IT’.

A video posted to social media on fathers day might be a first move to re-embrace the EV1 name. In it Mark Reuss discusses the importance of the Impact concept and what it meant to his father, Lloyd Reuss.

The next move, caught by GM Inside News, was a patent for a product named ‘AV1′.  The patent was filed in June, 2018 by General Motors’ Timothy Gorbatoff and Lauren Latimer. Latimer is notable as being Cruise Automation’s Copyright Agent.

Cruise Bolt EV

Cruise Automation Chevrolet Bolt EV with lidar

Cruise is General Motors autonomous vehicle “start up”. GM formally acquired Cruise in 2016, and the company has since made significant progress towards fully autonomous vehicle deployment. Using custom Bolt EVs, they plan to have a commercialized self-driving fleet on the road at some point in 2019.

The company may ultimately choose not to go with the name ‘AV1’. But the decision to register the trademark isn’t a coincidence. If they do so, it will be a deliberate attempt to tie their first mass-produced autonomous vehicle (AV1) with their first mass-produced electric vehicle (EV1).

Source: GM Inside News

Categories: Chevrolet

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31 Comments on "GM/Cruise Might Be Embracing EV1 History With ‘AV1’ Trademark"

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And yet even now GM can not manufacture an EV that is in the World’s Top Ten of EV’s Sales.
Tesla is the only company from the USA that is currently achieving this.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

The Chevy Volt and Bolt are both listed in the top 10 in the InsideEVs Plug-In Sales Scorecard linked at the top of this very web page.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

I’m tremendously amused that a statement of fact verifiable with a single mouse click on the same web page managed to actually garner downvotes.

You are aware that “world” does not mean “USA” right?

Fair enough, but I think Ron can be forgiven for assuming the “western world” of EVs. Chinese cars are very different for the most part.

I thought the Bolt’s battery and drive train weren’t made by GM. Did that change?

True, but it could be argued that not even Tesla makes their own cells, Panasonic does that (although the line is blurring).

The EV1 should have never been cancelled. It should have continued to been updated with new batteries every 3 years. How many lost sales… How much wasted engineering dollars flushed down the toilet.

You think GM just threw away all of the knowledge they gained building the EV1? They may have crushed all of them physically, but nuggets of what they learned was definitely applied to the Volt, and in turn, the Bolt.

Amusingly, a significant part of the know-how was actually outsourced to AC Propulsion, from which Tesla was born years later… 🙂

Even the people responsible for its death agree with you!

Sure as a 2 seater it would have always been a niche car. But it needed to be niche since battery tech was not as good at it is today and prices were still sky high. If only the EV1 and first gen Rav4 had continued though… the industry lost years of EV development.

Of course it wasn’t a complete waste. Just a few years later, the first Volt prototype was shown in early 2007. It was built off of what they learned from the EV1 and S-10 development.

Rumor has it, that they had nearly finished a 4 door version – which would have been a giant killer!

The EV1 went after the wrong market and never would have been commercially viable. They cost GM and Tax Payers huge sums of money, I think well over $100,000 each when the program was said and done, maybe closer to half million dollars for each car that was produced.

You have maybe 50,000 possible buyers for a 2 seat electric car with no luggage capacity. Look at the Honda Insight (original 2 seater) or CRZ.

Tesla showed everyone how to make an electric car. The EV1 was mostly irrelevant other than as an example of how NOT to make an electric car for volume production.

Well, that is around 10% of what the Smart brand cost Mercedes to develop.

“The EV1 was mostly irrelevant other than as an example of how NOT to make an electric car for volume production.”

Let’s not forget; one could say the same about the original Tesla Roadster too.
Hindsight suggests these were baby steps along the way to full EV development.

It’s a bit pointless vilifying GM for not doing the impossible.

Yep the Roadster is the perfect analogue.

Tesla was reportedly inspired by the success of the EV1 program and the publics love of the car. (as kdawg pointed out below)

Bob Lutz stated in ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ (i believe it was) that Tesla, before the roadster was even released, got his competitive side worked up. ‘why can this little start up in california do it but my bean counters say we can’t ‘ or something to that effect.

Btw if you haven’t seen ‘revenge’ it is a follow up to ‘who killed’. And as a historical documentary is far better and more inspiring than its predecessor. Both films are great. But I love watching Musk, Lutz, and Ghosn get their new EV projects off the ground in Revenge.

The EV1 and Roadster are intertwined… Symbiotic even. Just like the Leaf, Volt and Model S. Their successes and failings led to where we are today.

Competition is a GREAT thing. 😀

The connection is even tighter. Elon stated at some point (don’t remember whether that was in the documentation or elsewhere) that Tesla was indeed a reaction to the cancellation of the EV1 and other early EV programs: since none of the existing car companies would make EVs, the only way to have EVs, was to do it themselves…

Perhaps more importantly, Tesla was spun off from AC Propulsion to commercialise the tzero — AC Propulsion being the same company that designed the inverter for the EV1…

Regarding that Bob Lutz anecdote (which was indeed in the documentation), it was specifically about battery technology: his “bean counters” were telling Lutz that Li-Ion batteries for cars were still ten years out… Then Tesla presented the Roadster.

The EV1 was an investment that eventually paid off once Lithium Ion matured. It might have aid off at Tesla more than GM, but it paid off for all of us. As did the other early EV efforts by many players. And the EV1 physical topology lives on in the Volt, not that the stupid tunnel down the middle is a good idea, I hate it. But I do own a Volt.

GM is well on their way to becoming the first company to release fully autonomous vehicles on the roads in production form.

Or maybe Waymo?

Depends on the definition of “on the roads”, though. Autonomous shuttles are already on the roads here and there, in tightly controlled environments. GM and Waymo pilot programs will be somewhat less tightly controlled. The real breakthrough though will be when autonomous cars will be allowed to drive on *any* public road, without mapping it out in great detail in advance…

Great Quote, I tell people this all the time:
“Time to think of GM as who it IS, not who it WAS.”
Only I use less eloquent words 😉

People constantly site the EV1 or something else old GM (Motor Liquidation Company as it was renamed in 2009) did in the past, but they need reminding that it isn’t even legally the same company now. GM now was founded in 2009 and has undergone many changes. They have easily repaid any bail out money in the form of corporate and employees personal income taxes. They really shouldn’t be compared to original GM.

Yep, that is commonly seen here especially. Any positive GM article gets the inevitable “GM killed the electric car!/ignition switch deaths!” spam posted by the anti-GM trolls. It never fails.

You mean like any positive Nissan article inevitably gets “no TMS” spam from a certain poster?… 😛

What I wonder is If someone is brave/crazy enough to build a replica of the EV1 and drive it on public roads. Do you think the “new” GM will go after them? After all it was the “old” GM that crushed the majority of the EV1s , and disabled and banned the rest of them from being used. Why won’t the “new” GM revert that ban?

I don’t think they would stop it at all. The EV1 has shown up a few times recently at NDEW around the country. (Dunno if the cars would run or not. )

What I wouldn’t give to be an eccentric billionaire.

I would find one, buy it, and have a new powertrain and pack installed. I’d want it as close to the original as possible, but using modern tech advancements. I wonder how far an EV1 could go with a modern battery pack from panasonic or LG chem.

Easily 200 miles. Don’t really need much more than that.

EV1 Wiki for a refresher.

“The EV1 was made available through limited lease-only agreements, initially to residents of the cities of Los Angeles, California, and Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. EV1 lessees were officially participants in a “real-world engineering evaluation” and market study into the feasibility of producing and marketing a commuter electric vehicle in select U.S. markets undertaken by GM’s Advanced Technology Vehicles group. The cars were not available for purchase, and could be serviced only at designated Saturn dealerships. Within a year of the EV1’s release, leasing programs were also launched in San Francisco and Sacramento, California, along with a limited program in the state of Georgia.”

“Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed in 2017 that Tesla was started in response to GM’s cancellation of the EV1 program.”

Could be, but I would ask Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard, who started Tesla. Elon had quite a bit of both brains and money, but he was not there at the very start.

AV1 will drive itself into the shredder, straight off the assembly line. Fast, efficient. A great leap forward!

Not all EV’s from that era were crushed, Ford built about 1000 Th!nk City EVs and returned them to Norway after the CARB mandate was repealed, they were not crushed. The majority are still on the roads in Europe and can regularly be found in the used car listings in Norway, along side the much improved 5th generation Th!nks built between 2008 and 2011, of which about 3000 were made and almost 400 are still on the roads in the US.

There are also some Toyota Rav4 EVs still roaming the streets. Not many since a lot were crushed, but at least some were sold.