By on June 30, 2008

ev12.jpgThe LA Times reports that nobody tells Bob Lutz how to sell electric cars. In response to a NY Times article on GM's woes, an unnamed EV activist wrote a letter to the editor suggesting GM bring back the EV1 using Panasonic lead-acid batteries. This might have flown under the radar, except that the plucky rabble-rouser copied Maximum Bob on the email. Besides proving that he knows how to use email, Bob's reply proved that his world famous piss-and-vinegar approach hasn't been blunted by GM's recent bad news. "The EV will not meet any current safety laws," writes Lutz. "Putting a version into production that meets regulations would put us out to '11 or '12. They cost us well over $80,000 to produce, and, being a two-seater, we could only sell 800 in four years. We lost over one billion dollars on that experiment." And to the assertion that the Volt "depends on Lithium batteries which don't yet exist," Maximum Bob says "I don't know why you insist that lithium-ion doesn't exist… trust me, the battery will not delay the car." Though the last point might have a little more nuance to it than Bob lets on, it's good to see him put dreams of an EV1 comeback tour to bed.

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18 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 60: The EV1 is Dead. Get Over It....”

  • avatar

    Hmmm consider GM lost $1B trying half assed to bring a EV to market versus the $1B spent on Lutz, Wagoner, et al. salaries, bonuses, perks, chartered jets, etc. for the last 8 years. Which was a bigger waste?

  • avatar

    He does have a point. If nobody wanted a two-seat Insight, I doubt they’d want a two-seat EV1.

  • avatar

    I never knew they sold 800 EV1s.

  • avatar

    I think the bigger picture here is that they wasted a billion dollars on it and are now re-developing something they had already made. They should have leveraged what they learned with the EV1 and applied it to the Volt.

  • avatar

    “In 1987, General Motors won the first World Solar Challenge in Australia. Its record-setting car, Sunraycer, finished the race more than two days ahead (600+ miles) of its closest competitor.”

  • avatar

    They should have leveraged what they learned with the EV1 and applied it to the Volt.

    How do you know that they haven’t? Even if they’re not building the Volt as an evolution of exactly the same platform, I’d sure hope they’re at least applying the knowledge they gained from the EV1. Doesn’t seem to be helping them get to market very fast, mind you.

    Hehe, and I love that licence plate in the picture: SOKT RKT.

  • avatar

    So at over $80,000 to produce (adjusted for inflation?) and not able to meet any current safety standards, how will the Volt succeed in meeting all 2010 standards, seat 4, and come in at around $40-50,000? Mr. Niedermeyer? Mr. Williams? Anybody?

  • avatar


    The Sunraycer was a working solar powered car, but it cost $2-3 Million to build and was made of kevlar! The frame only weighed 20 lbs. There is a big difference between a one-off prototype using space age tech and a saleable prodction car.

  • avatar

    They were going on about this on AB a few days ago. It always amazes me how these so called experts fail completely to understand the realities of bringing (or re-bringing) a car to the market.

  • avatar

    So $80,000 to produce an EV1, and only a 25% premium to get a sporty tesla roadster?

  • avatar

    I am and Art Director in advertising and in the 90’s when the EV1 came out GM’s advertising was virtually non-existant for that car! They worked with a top notch agency called Hal Riney and they produced some wonderful ads that never had any mass circulation…I for one don’t even remember a TV ad and I am in the business!

    If you want to sell a car and get some money on investment you might want to advertise!!

    I swear most people today haven’t even heard of the EV1! If people never heard of it then people won’t buy it or even have interest in it!

    Bob Lutz is a nut job! GM had a revolutionary vehicle in there hands that could have changed the landscape of the ICE and they totally screwed it up!

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    tony-e30: So at over $80,000 to produce (adjusted for inflation?) and not able to meet any current safety standards, how will the Volt succeed in meeting all 2010 standards, seat 4, and come in at around $40-50,000? Mr. Niedermeyer?

    It’s atotally different vehicle. The EV1 was a very limited production vehicle on a totally unique platform, using very expensive exotic materials to reduce weight and aerodynamic drag. This was necessary because the lead-acid batteries had such a limited power capacity.

    The Volt will be volume produced, on the same platform as the next-gen Cobalt. Because it has a gen-set, the Volt’s battery only has to have a range of 40 miles.

    It’s really quite a different car, except for being electric drive.

  • avatar

    Seriously, people, are you going to let Lutz get away with this blatant lie?
    Some interesting stat’s below, by the way.

    The EV1 was never offered for sale, only about 500 were made, and GM leased them out to test customers.
    There is no way he can judge the car’s appeal based upon some sales statistics.

    Given the low number of vehicles produced, there’s no wonder that each came out at $80.000
    I’m pretty certain the first 500 Priuses came out at at about a couple of million dollars each, given the cost of developing the HSD.

    We do know a few things about GM’s EV1 and EV program, however, and I’m pretty certain Lutz doesn’t want us to be reminded of that:

    1. The EV1 had the lowest draw coefficient of any production car. What if GM had taken that principle cross-platform?

    2. A four-seater version was in development, the EV1 having been lenghtened by 19″

    3. They were working on a compressed natural gas version.

    4. They were working on a parallel hybrid and a series hybrid, with different engines that were supposed to kick in if the battery went too low.
    The gas turbine in the series parallel one was wicked excellent engineering.

    5. They were even working on a fuel cell version.

    And then they went right ahead and screwed with the ZEV-mandate in California and proceeded to make stupid-cars until now.

    GM could have been kicking Toyota in the teeth now, and instead chose to not only kill off the EV1 but to commit slow-motion seppuku.

  • avatar

    He does have a point. If nobody wanted a two-seat Insight, I doubt they’d want a two-seat EV1.

    Back in the late automotive Cretaceous before the giant meteorite of $4/gal. gas made them starve to death Durangosaurus & Surbabansaur dominated the landscape.

    The EV1 and Insight were the tiny mammals playing a peripheral role.

    Both would do quite well in todays radically changes automotive ecosystem.

    To borrow from the Corvette play book ,just having one $40k EV1 in the show room will allow you to pitch that many more people on the Cobalt XFE or Malibu Green Line.

  • avatar

    Great points by Stein and Red…in fact good points all around!

    GM made their own bed on this one, no doubt.

    Sitting in traffic yesterday for 45 minutes on 376 East in Pittsburgh (in the rain…you think Pittsburghers would know how to drive in the rain at this point – but no, they just STOP), it gave me pause to sit and think just how much gas was being wasted by myself and everyone else sitting and waiting for morons who can’t seem to keep their foot on the gas through a tunnel to get out of said tunnel. I just can’t imagine why, for the life of me, we aren’t seeing many many more efforts to even use a very small hybrid drive that keeps the vehicle powered while idle or sitting in traffic.

    How is the development for things like this not further along? It can’t really cost that friggin much to put into a vehicle. Sitting in that traffic, I watched the MPG calculation on my TSX go down 1.6 mpg overall. I was happily at almost 27mpg, and now I’m bordering on 25. But traffic creeps so damn slow, that you can’t just shut off and sit. It’s amazingly frustrating what the GMs and OPEC have done to vehicle development and innovation in the past 3 decades. I wasn’t born during the gas crisis in the 70’s, and I can’t imagine how that didn’t completely change the landscape of vehicles forever, not just temporarily.

  • avatar
    Alex Rodriguez

    GM is leveraging the EV1. Didn’t TTAC just post a lengthy article where some engineer from the EV1 project was called to work the Volt, Andrew or some such? And that there were several others involved in the Volt as well?

    I agree a two seater is not the way to go. Also, I don’t think you could get the weight down with the old batteries in a 4 seater with today’s crash test requirements.

  • avatar

    The old lead-acid batteries were a problem, but problems are there to be solved. Toyota offered one solution, GM was well on its way to another.

    GM is leveraging its EV1 experience, but now doing it from a position of weakness, rather than one of perceived strength, which the company was enjoying back in 2000-2001.

    Sometimes, automakers’ efforts to create loopholes comes back and bites them, and that’s precisely what happened with GM and its EV effort (and Ford with THINK). Could’a been a contender.

    (BTW – I meant drag coefficient above, but you guys knew that.)

  • avatar

    EV1 was a cool car, I got to drive one (down a street and back) in 10th grade. My friend’s dad worked for GM in So Cal and brought home new models. Brought a C5 and EV1 home on the same weekend, EV1 was pretty interesting and accelerated rather nicely.

    I think the one thing I just couldn’t get over was that it looked like a Saturn coupe, and the cool HVAC controls. Now that I think about it, EVs could have given Saturn quite an image boost back then and if they (GM) would have continued with EVs or even hybrids for Saturn, it would have given a good run at Toyota.

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