GM flashes back to its electric future

Consumer Reports News: January 19, 2007 09:44 PM

GM says most of the technology used in the Chevrolet Volt--and many of its engineers--came from the original EV1 program. In fact, the EV1 team has also provided key talent and technology at the leading independent electric car companies. GM clearly did not kill the electric car. However, in recent decades, the company has appeared to champion new technology only when its back has been to the wall.

It's helpful to remember that the EV1 was a response to the 1990 California mandate that 10 percent of cars sold in the state in 2003 had to be battery-powered electric vehicles. (By 2003, the state had reduced the mandate to the point that today's gasoline-electric hybrids and other low-emissions vehicles satisfy the requirement.)

The road to the Volt has been long and rocky, and GM has traversed it in fits and starts. The EV1 had about a 60-mile range (in sunny climates) before needing a five-hour recharge. In 2000, GM showed the diesel-hybrid Precept, its first hybrid concept car. The battery pack consumed the whole trunk and the electric range was minimal. Now the company says the lithium-ion batteries for the Volt won't be ready until 2012. (A Saab spokesman indicated that lithium-ion batteries for more traditional hybrids could be in vehicles by next year, though the time to market has not been announced.)

GM needs a breakthrough product to retain the title as the world's largest automaker, as well as achieve the leadership role it once held in the auto industry. The Volt has the potential to be just such a revolutionary vehicle, marking it and the underlining E-Flex technology as worth watching.

--Eric Evarts

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