How it Started, How it’s Going
When General Motors killed off their EV1 (the worlds first purpose built, mass produced EV) Tesla saw the potential market and within a few years became the most valuable car manufacturer (by market cap) in the world. So what was the EV1, what happened to it and how did it lead to this 2022 Tesla Model 3 that’s selling now at Turners Otahuhu? Read on...
The GM EV1 was both a triumph of engineering and innovation and a failure of corporate imagination. It all started with a solar powered race across Australia in 1987 where GM’s Sunraycer won by an enormous margin. Some of the engineering and innovation from that project went into creating the all electric “Impact” concept car in 1990. Normally this is where stories like this end but learning of GM’s development success, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) unveiled an initiative that would require America’s seven largest auto companies to build and sell ever increasing quantities of zero emission cars starting in 1998. So the EV1 was born, although it was never going to be the company’s favourite child.
The EV1 was a flawed genius of a car. It was incredibly streamlined, had good horsepower and was good to drive. However, initially using lead acid batteries, it had limited range and slow charging. You also couldn’t buy an EV1, instead they were available to lease and over the course of its short life over 1000 were leased. GM claimed they couldn’t make a profit on the EV1 as nobody wanted it as well as its high production and development costs. In the end GM successfully lobbied to have the zero emissions targets dropped and also ended the EV1. All the cars were repossessed and all but 40 (decommissioned and donated to museums etc) were destroyed.
The EV1 had many admirers and famously fans held a mock funeral for the EV1 in 2003 before they were dragged off to be crushed. And later that year Tesla was formed and shortly after that Elon Musk joined as chairman. He Tweeted (of course) in 2017 “Few people know that we started Tesla when GM forcibly recalled all electric cars from customers in 2003 & then crushed them in a junkyard “. GM went back to its knitting building SUVs and trucks and in 2009 filed for bankruptcy and a massive government bailout. Tesla, despite a rocky few weeks lately, has a market cap of over 700 billion USD.
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