Jeff's EV1 Observations

More images of the EV1, including the record-setting 183 MPH car with comments and an interview with world speed record driver Clive Roberts

What's it like to live with GM's EV1 electric car? Well I probably won't be able to say directly since the car is nominally my Mom's and I expect Dad to drive it when she's not. However I have had a chance to drive it around town a bit and on the highway and can say it's generally an excellent experience. Here are some additional impressions about EV1's surprisingly decent handling. Lots more EV1 links can be found for example at the EV1 Club.

The GM EV1 is definitely one of the most technologically advanced cars on the road. The aerodynamics alone are a phenomenal achievement. In fact it's slightly amazing it even exists, given the usual political shenanigans at giant companies like GM. We picked up a copy of the book: The Car That Could which chronicles some of the internal and external politics of creating the car. The impression I got from Rick Ostrov, GM's EV1 Team Leader for Northern California (looks like he was in SoCal before) is that it would not have happened but for the commitment of then GM Chairman Roger Smith and after him Bob Stempel. Clearly a car this radical would need a strong champion to cut through all the politics and bureaucracy at GM.

Judging by the rather massive tax subsidies used to promote alternate fuel vehicles to buyers and organizations it seems that there are also proponents within the Federal, State and regional governments. As a libertarian I am of course against tax subsidies. If you want to encourage growth, slash all taxes and let a freer, less friction-filled market decide through direct consumer choice.

Note that if oil company subsidies were cut, including the billions of your tax dollars used to defend the oil multi-trillionaires of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc., gas prices would probably be higher, even if we removed the current sizeable gasoline sales taxes.

To give an example of the upside down economics being used to promote these, GM has spent somewhere between .5 and 2 billion dollars developing the EV1. There have been about 500 produced so far, so they cost at least $1 million each at current production. The EV1 is hand-assembled on what would traditionally be a small volume production line. (The EV1 plant formerly produced the limited-volume 2 seat Buick Reatta.) The nominal list price of the car is $35K. After Federal, State and Regional tax credits, the lease price is about $25K in Northern California. This results in monthly payments of just under $400.

There is a $100,000 tax credit to organizations for alternate fuel vehicle infrastructure. Stores like Costco, Fry's Electronics, Saturn dealers, shopping malls, government buildings, etc. are installing charging stations. For now they cost nothing to use. After all the electricity would be about a few pennies for an hour's charge. It's not clear if the tax credit includes operating costs, or just installation.

The efficiency of the EV1 is staggering. The energy capacity of the current lead-acid batteries is equivalent to half a gallon of gasoline. With that energy the EV1 can go 50 to 75 miles. Applying some of the same vehicle technology used in the EV1 to internal combustion engine cars could result in 80-120 MPG cars today.

Post Script: EV1, with a modern Lithium ion battery pack of similar weight, would travel about 500 miles on a single charge. Calculation is 200 watt hours per mile and a 100 kWh Lithium Ion battery pack. A lighter 75 kWh battery pack would give 375 miles of range.

Post Post Script: knowing now that widely-respected Lotus engineer Clive Roberts was involved in the design of EV1, particularly the suspension, it makes sense that it follows the Lotus philosophy of a stiff chassis and soft damping, as laid out by Colin Chapman long ago. Lotus won many Formula 1 races using this philosophy before ground effects, of which they were also pioneers and multiple championship winners.

Here is another perspective about the EV1 from John Wayland