This prototype was driven into the L.A. Auto Show in 1990 by former GM Chairman
Roger B. Smith (of "Roger
and Me" fame), intended to prove that GM had good intentions about reducing emissions.
The California Air Resources Board
("CARB"), under pressure
from the federal Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), was trying to reduce car emissions "by
10%" with a deadline of 2003.
The Zero Emission Vehicle ("ZEV")
provided one easy, bureaucratic method for doing so: CARB simply "mandated" that "10%" of all
cars sold by 2003 must be ZEV!
For years, auto makers, their industry association (then the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, "AAMA";
later Japanese makers were allowed to join and it became the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, "AAM"), with oil companies and their
industry associations (Western States Petroleum, "WSP"), had been fighting any sort of increase in miles-per-gallon ("mpg") or decrease in refinery or auto emissions.
- CARB now, it seemed, had the facts required to force GM to produce
the EV1, and to force other car makers to follow with other ZEV.
CARB is in a weak legal position, because
interstate commerce is regulated by the federal government, not the states, and the only way CARB has power over
autos would be under mandate by the EPA, which
is charged with enforcing the federal Clean Air Act
- If the EPA chose not to enforce the CAA, then California would be off the hook,
and could drop the ZEV mandate.
- In effect, California is dependent on federal policies for any leverage over
- This proved fatal to the ZEV mandate.
After years of acrimony, CARB and the AMA reached, in 1996, a Memorandum of Agreement ("MOA")
which seemed to be an amicable solution. Unfortunately, this MOA was
kept secret from the public, which
was unable to review it. CARB is still allowing the AAM to scam the public by keeping exact ZEV numbers and status
secret, to this day.
As events proved, the AAM had a couple of nasty surprises in store for CARB. First, one ploy to weaken the Mandate was the idea of trading off pure ZEV production for hybrids,
and giving "PZEV" (partial ZEV credit) for better gas mileage. This led to an injunction since it infringes
on the federal government's sole power to regulate MPG and CAFE standards. In the aftermath, auto makers used the
hiatus to dismantle their battery ZEV programs and crush the EVs. Thus, CARB
should have resisted AAM pressures,
and stuck to requiring ZEV production. Their conciliation proved
a weakness. The second shock
was revealed at the CARB 2000 ZEV review: the MOA, contrary to the ideas of CARB, did not commit the AAM to a "good
faith effort" to build a market. Rather, it only committed them to put out a certain number of ZEV cars for
a certain number of years. The fate of the ZEV was not spelled out in the MOA:
- CARB staff thought the ZEV program would expand, and ZEV numbers
on the road would increase; while
- AAM intended, and the MOA text permitted, the ZEV to be taken
back and crushed after the demonstration period ended.
This is why GM, Honda, Ford, Nissan and, for a while, Toyota were able to keep
control of the ZEV and not sell to the public (their worst nightmare!) and were able to get away with never offering their ZEV for sale. It
was only Toyota, from Mar. to Nov. 2002, which offered the last 328 Toyota RAV4-EV for sale to the general public.
- Only Toyota honorably sold a production EV on the free market,
without trick or artifice, although there were only 328 to sell. The
gas RAV4-EV had undergone two design changes by 2002, so any further production, beyond the 328 sold, would need
a complete re-design of the RAV4-EV's 500 EV-specific parts. Toyota abruptly cancelled the RAV4-EV sale, stopped
taking deposits, and spent months finding the parts and car bodies to fullfill unexpectedly heavy orders. All orders
were filled, but it took a while.
GM only leased the EV1 under special conditions that removed
the purchase option. If you didn't sign the lease, you didn't get the car: as one Honda Honcho stated, "...they
don't care whether you take it or not, they are losing money on each one...".
In 1997, GM released the first of two "builds" totaling about
650 1997 EV1. Originally powered by Delco (now Delphi) lead-acid batteries,
they only had a 60-70 mile range and the battery packs often proved defective. After 1998, the defective Delco
packs were gradually "upgraded" to Panasonic lead-acid batteries, which increased the range to 110 miles
and never failed. While peppy, there was an alarming sway under heavy acceleration, the windshield seals leaked
into the dashboard electronics, and the windshield tensioning led to persistent windshield blowouts. These leases
had "unlimited miles", but that didn't do much good since the cheap Delco batteries kept breaking down.
On Mar. 2, 2000, GM issued a "voluntary recall" of ALL 1997 EV1, claiming that the 1997 EV1 had design
flaws, one of which could lead to fires under certain conditions. This was an underbuilt Magnecharger input port,
which needed an upgrade that affected all the charging electronics. After 14 months, GM re-released the "upgraded"
1997 EV1 back to their original lessees,
this time under modified two-year leases that did not include unlimited mileage. All the "non-upgraded"
EV1 were destroyed, and crushed. Just when the EV1 really could travel 200 miles per day with the new Panasonic
batteries, this change now billed extra miles at 35 cents per mile.
All of these 1997 EV1 found lessees;
none was unclaimed. Those EV1 drivers who lost their "non-upgraded" EV1 were put at the top of the list
for getting a 1999 Nickel Metal Hydride ("NiMH", EPA-certified 140-mile-range) model, when and if they
were ever released.
GM hinted that they were unable
to produce the EV1 with NiMH batteries, which is the reason they released it originally in 1997 with lead-acid
batteries. The Impact prototype was crammed with lead-acid batteries in a battery "T" shaped tunnel,
which was difficult to ventilate. Putting NiMH batteries into this tunnel was a design disaster. What was needed
was a redesign, putting the NiMH batteries under the EV (as Honda and Toyota had done). Unwilling to change from
the original design, GM just added a cooling system that used up a lot of energy.
Putting the lie to the claim that NiMH was not usable, Toyota designed and released a ZEV version of its then-new 1996-99 RAV4 which used NiMH
batteries, and Honda released a version of its CRX called the Honda
EV Plus which also used NiMH batteries. By starting with existing gasoline-powered
vehicles, design and production costs were minimized; also, a simpler permanent magnet brushless motor was used,
and, most importantly, the NiMH batteries were deployed in a tray under
the floorboard. This aided cooling, and also, it turned out, was beneficial
for the weights-and-balance and strength analyses. No such EV ever turned over, and the battery pack provided a
natural "crush zone" in collisions.
These Japanese EVs were the first production EVs with range over 120 miles on a charge, thanks to the more powerful, longer-lasting, and more reliable NiMH batteries. Toyota, recognizing the importance
of batteries, had formed an alliance with Matsushita (Panasonic) called "PEVE", which developed the EV-95 NiMH battery, the most-researched, most-powerful,
most-tested, and the only successful battery that lasts longer than the life of the vehicle, perhaps over 200,000
miles. CARB recognized this in a 2000 position paper resulting from the Battery
Technology Assessment Workshop that put an upper cap on NiMH costs at
$350/kWh, or at most $12,000 for a typical 30 kWh 770 lb. NiMH battery
pack. This amortizes out to no more than 6 cents per mile, less if the 90 lbs. of Nickel and other metals is reprocessed into new batteries when
the batteries are scrapped.
This might have been intended as a mild slap in the face of GM, which had gotten them into this trouble in the
first place. Essentially, Honda and Toyota were faithfully trying to fulfill the letter of the ZEV mandate, which
might have embarrassed GM if it were capable of embarrassment.
To add insult to injury for GM, the Honda and Toyota offerings were issued for $499/month, less money than the
$599 lease cost of the EV1, which had less powerful, defective batteries. GM was forced to lower its lease cost.
The most successful EV ever made, the Toyota RAV4-EV
on the right, is still active in California
in fleet and individual use, still running on the original pre-2002 Nickel Metal Hydride batteries and still retaining
a range over 100 miles, even though Toyota is not providing replacement batteries. All the other EVs produced
under the prodding of the ZEV Mandate, including the 1997
EV1 on the left, were NEVER SOLD OR OFFERED FOR SALE, and all have been destroyed by permission of CARB when, in March, 2003, CARB surrendered
to the petroleum industry and the Bush regime.
Only three (3) CARB Commissioners voted to preserve
Those voting to kill the EV1 were Chair Alan Lloyd and 7 other Commissioners.
The 1999 EV1 was delayed, GM stated, by a cooling issue. The original EV1 was designed for lead-acid batteries, which were more heat-resistant
than the much more powerful Nickel Metal Hydrid batteries used in the 1990
Solectria Sunrise (which achieved 220 miles range on a charge).
Finally, in Dec., 1999, under pressure from CARB's Jan. 1, 2000 deadline, GM released about 200 1999 EV1 with NiMH
batteries. They proved to have a 160 mile range, and never failed. In
addition, GM solved some of the flaws in the 1997 version, removing the sway, new seals, etc.
As one EV1
driver, the late Mr. Don Devlin, happily
exclaimed, "...Its a sensation...Huge congratulations ... A revolution
in ... range..."
All the 465 1999 NiMH EV1 which
were made available found happy lessees. None ever went unwanted, none ever had problems. All were mourned when
they were abruptly crushed by GM.
No more were ever built after 1998. GM
had dismantled the EV1 supplier and manufacturing plant in 1998, it was reported by GM insiders; the only question
was who would be allowed to lease the already-built EV1. Over the next 18 months, the remaining 200-odd 1999 EV1
were released, a few at a time, to selected lessees, mostly high-profile celebrities and politicians.
- There was never a time when an EV1 could not find a willing
- In 1999, ex-Governor Davis appointed Alan Lloyd, a fuel cell advocate
and enemy of Battery EVs ("BEV"), to the position of Chair of CARB. CARB gradually weakened and then withdrew
the BEV component of the ZEV mandate (it was existing
EVs that were killed: the ZEV mandate itself is nominally still in force, but currently "inoperative"
so far as actually doing anything).
- With the 2000 seizure of power by oil politicians and the ascension
of Andy Card, GM's
chief lobbyist against ZEV Mandate, federal EPA policies were modified and CARB's ability to affect AAM policy
and production diminished. At meetings, AAM execs just stood with arms folded, refuseniks.
- In March and April 2003, CARB Chair Alan Lloyd presided over postponing
the ZEV mandate to 2018, "back-ending" compliance and relying upon Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars which would
be much more expensive and would require extensive research over 15 years.
- No one can explain why Lloyd
considered BEV "too expensive" but why the
proposed 15 years of research into a new infrastructure and technology, less promising than Compressed Natural
Gas, would be "practical".
- The batteries exist, the cars existed: the failure was CARB.