Check Out The Legendary EV1 At The Tellus Science Museum


Kim of Like Tesla visits the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA

In 1990, GM showed off their new Impact electric concept to a glowing reception. The car had a sleek look for the time and the vehicle’s performance dispelled any notion that an electric vehicle had to be slow. Later that decade, the automaker brought the Impact to market as the GM EV1. Unlike other manufacturer’s electric offerings, the peppy EV1 was built from the ground up as an electric car. This made it one of the first purpose built mass-produced electric vehicles in decades.

Unfortunately, the EV1 was primarily a test bed vehicle and was only available as a lease in select markets. Over the vehicle’s short lifespan, GM produced 1,117 examples of the car. In 2003, the company announced the cancellation of the EV1 program. A few dozen EV1 shells survived, but the vast majority were returned and crushed. This led to the release of the documentary Who Killed The Electric Car and the follow up Revenge Of The Electric Car.

The Detroit automaker has since gone on to release a number of plug-in vehicles such as the Chevy Volt and Bolt EV. Still, the EV1 name is one that triggers a great deal of emotion among EV fans. Both positive and negative.

GM EV1 Museum

Be sure to check out InsideEVs interview with EV1 marketing director John Dabels

This historically important vehicle is what led Kim to the Tellus Science Museum. With so few vehicles remaining, she did not even realize any were on display to the public. This particular EV1 found a home in the Science In Motion gallery along with several other electrified models.

In her Like Tesla video on YouTube, Kim shows us around the museum and provides a bit of history. Not only of the EV1 but also several other vehicles such as the century old Pope Waverley Electric. If you have never experienced the museum for yourself, be sure to watch the video above.

GM EV1 interior

Categories: Chevrolet

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

33 Comments on "Check Out The Legendary EV1 At The Tellus Science Museum"

newest oldest most voted

They told the designers to make it ugly but the engineers didn’t get the memo. Or were the management confident the designers did a good job in making sure that it will fall that they intentionally didn’t tell the engineers?

Not only ugly, but make it a useless 2 seater that no one will ever be able to use for anything but commuting.

It’s pretty good looking from most angles except the rear. Curiously the rear angle was most used in the bizarre and creepy adds for this vehicle.

They needed it to succeed because of a lagal requirement to make EVs in the 80s. That’s why so many companies had EVs at the same time. Once they got that EV requiring law overturned, they cancelled the program – customer demand didn’t matter.

There are about half a dozen EV1s still around that weren’t crushed (mostly as museum pieces), but my understanding is that GM mandated that all of them had to be “deactivated”, which basically means gutting the powertrain. They even threatened legal action against people who tried to make any of the very, very few surviving cars roadworthy.

AFAIK there isn’t a single intact EV1 powertrain, and that’s the really weird thing about the way GM handled that car’s cancellation. You can *maybe* understand them crushing a proprietary fleet of leased vehicles when they reached the end of their contracts, but the lengths GM took to prevent the car ever being driven again in any form is extraordinary.

Imagine the day before GM seized all the EV1, you reported it stolen then hid it in your mom’s garage under a tarp for 17 years… 1. How much would it be worth? and 2. Now that GM went bankrupt and the new GM is essentially a new company… who would own the vehicle?

Curious if any EV1 was stolen and not recovered.

“I Really loved this car, and when I heard they [GM] were going to destroy them all, I hid it, so that they couldn’t get it” – Francis Ford Coppola, (Jay Leno’s Garage s01e08)

So yes, there is an intact EV1 out there that mysteriously disappeared just before meeting its fate and it’s owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

They should have donated all EV1s to a number US engineering universites willing to co develop electric cars with GM. But then they wouldnt be GM, a company which is destined to repeatedly bankrupt themselves.

They could have donated them, but GM by law would have been liable for parts for them.

@ theflew: parts which would have been very easy to supply, with a thousand cars in GM’s possession at the end of their lease.

Not if they made them sign an agreement in order to accept the car. “By accepting this car, you agree that you are 100% liable for finding your own parts, etc.”. That sort of thing.

The conspiracy part of me wonders what sort of internal memos there are about the EV1. Why were they so adamant about having them all destroyed? Worried about competitors getting their hands on one?

Ron Swanson's Mustache

It seems a bit tinfoil hat, but it would make sense that GM would be worried about the existence of the EV1 leading to government mandates to create actual electric cars. The EV1 only ever existed because of California regulations that, as I understand, were later repealed due to a GM-financed lawsuit.

So with GM basically being forced to develop the EV1 under duress from the state of California, the whole project was probably a huge money loser for them, and they wanted to ensure that, once the law was changed, there was zero chance of them being forced to foot the bill to develop more electric cars.

Given that this was classic Malaise-era GM, I’d be completely unsurprised that they would have done everything they could to strangle the development of EV technology while it’s still in the cradle.

I agree that GM’s behavior around EV1 was odd and rather unique, but it was a rather unique car as well. Perhaps they destroyed them to prevent competitors from reverse engineering the drivetrain? At any rate, we are where we are and I love driving my Model 3, so I don’t really give a rat fart about what GM is doing now.

I believe that Honda and Toyota crushed a lot of their EVs as well. They just didn’t crush them all. GM hand built the early EV-1s and they were full of proprietal info that they definitely didn’t want to see someone tearing down and reverse engineering. Plus they would have had to supply parts for years for cars that they didn’t see going anywhere.

No, there are some EV-1’s at China’s National Electric Vehicle R&D Lab

I’m quite sure the reason why GM wanted them all destroyed was so that competing interests couldn’t get a hold of one for reverse engineering and develop their own product. Their fossil fuel buddies must have been freaking at the prospect.

Viking79 says two seaters are useless. Next time you’re in a traffic jam look around and see how many vehicles contain one or two people.

You read the part where I said useless for anything but commuting, right? I don’t drive in areas where there are traffic jams either. The point is it greatly limits the audience interested in your vehicle. I like two seaters fine. CRZ is one of my favorite hybrids. I drove an MR2. Most people won’t buy one because of reservations about space. My point is the EV1 was never going to become the future.

Toyota didn’t seem concerned about reverse engineering, once it noticed that crushing was bad for its image it just sold them to the owners.

The EV1 at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History is fully intact as it is required by the institution. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean it is road-worthy or ever see the road again. There are others out there as well.

“AFAIK there isn’t a single intact EV1 powertrain

GM used the EV1 power train in the S10 electric pick up truck and you can still find those around.

Just to play devil’s advocate but I believe the heavy-handedness was initiated by whoever within the company that was tasked with making sure no copies would end up in the hands of rival automakers and disassembled. A lot of the technology in the EV1 was carried over to the development of what would become the Voltec design.

There was really no break between the discontinuation of the EV1 and the final collection of all of the leased vehicles in November of 2003 until the start of the development of the Voltec powertrain leading to the reveal of the Volt concept in 2007. It’s possible that there was absolutely no communication between the powers that be involved with the EV1 and the development team for the Voltec but I find that highly unlikely.

Wade, here is an exclusive interview InsideEVs did with marketing director John Dabels you might want to add the link. For anyone who spent time in a Volt, there is a video here that will blow you away. As for the conspiracy theories, John delivers a compelling explanation.

Great interview. Funny thing is I think the damage from how they ended the EV1 is just now starting to burn them. It is really hurting their prospects with EVs, many here that love the Kona will refuse to even look at the Bolt EV, even though it is an incredibly good vehicle. They just don’t like GM. A lot of brand damage was done over a small program.

You are so right, I just got over GM crushing my EV1 dream from 20 years ago, but sorry, too late, bought a Model 3. Suggested a Bolt to my wife but she refuses to consider any GM car for several reasons including their animal crash testing many years ago. The Bolt is a great car but i think it may be too little, too late. Some people have long memories.

Thanks for the reminder about that excellent interview. I have added a link to it in the story. 🙂

There is a beautiful red EV1 on display at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento. The collection includes a 1911 Detroit Electric as well. Go see it if your on Nor Cal. The best 10 bucks you’ll ever spend !

I watched Who Killed The Electric Car before the LEAF was announced, and BOY WAS I PISSED!

This was around the same time that news came out that Chevron owned and killed the patent for NiMH battery packs:

Man, those were dark days, before Tesla was getting traction with the S and the LEAF was announced.

Francis Ford Coppola hid his EV1 when he found out GM wanted them back to be be crushed.

You can get a short look here when Jay Leno visits his garage – Search YouTube for:
The Cars of Tomorrow | Jay Leno’s Garage | CNBC Prime

I think only 40 were left of the more than 1,117 EVs that were produced. In fact only 2 survived as per some comment.

Anyone who gets is should renovate it and drive at least in their neighborhood and also leave it to their beloved ones.
These vehicles are precious ones.

I have seen one in person in Germany in 2010:

In 1991, I bought a new Nissan Sentra. I said to myself that the Sentra would be my last gasoline vehicle. Embarrassingly, I knew little about battery cost and weight at that time. When the EV1 came out, you could not buy it and it was $399/month to lease it (in 1996 dollars). That cost, combined with the looks and utility of the EV1, turned me off completely. While what Chevron apparently did with NiMH batteries was awful, patent abuses can be found in many industries. I do not excuse Chevron, I don’t know how you can protect patent rights and fix this issue. Patent rights must be protected or there will be no new patents.

Chevy also makes made the SPARK EV. It was a best buy for all the years they produced it. 80-100 miles of range. They stopped producing them in 2016 when the Bolt came out at double the range and double the cost. If they still didn’t just do COMPLIANCE cars they could have made both and not closed 3 of their factories and laid off workers. Now it’s going to be just TRUCKS and SUV.s