Humming along at 70 mph on Interstate 4 in a quick, noiseless and vibrationless electric car that used no petroleum and that had air conditioning and power steering --and everything else found in a normal car -- had me feeling like George Jetson. The car felt so right. I was convinced the future was electric. There was no car in the world like the EV1 at the time.
My respect for GM as an engineering organization that could mass produce the EV1 was off the charts back then. But GMís leadership, focused only on dollar signs and not corporate image, didnít have the foresight to see very far down the road. And the EV1, available for lease in just two states, California and Arizona, ended production in 1999, after slightly more than 1,100 units were built.
The last time I saw more than one EV1 in one place at the same time was in an Arizona desert about a decade ago. I was at GMís old proving grounds in Mesa test driving some new model. The dusty EV1s were crushed and stacked on each other like trash.
That floored me.
As a guy who believed in that car and the potential of its technology, I couldnít believe GM could do such a despicable thing to what I considered a marvel. It eroded my last vestiges of confidence that GM knew its customers at all.
GM officials -- fired, retired and current -- have said killing the EV1 was one of the worst decisions the company ever made.
Had GM nurtured the seeds it planted with the EV1 and continued to improve its technology, the company probably would have not been embarrassed two years later by the Toyota Prius and later by Tesla Motors.
Mark Reuss, GM's current head of product development, noted in a Facebook post today responding to this blog, that GM is made up of people.
"The people who make GM change over time," he wrote. "Many leave, many come, many have seen many times. The people who let EV1 perish are not here. The people who make Volts, Bolts, etc are here engineering and making them. While we work for an entity or holding company which is similar -- the people who define the entity are completely different. Time to think of GM as who it IS, not who it WAS. We are not an "IT."
Indeed, Reuss and GM's current management team have a shot at claiming a leadership position in the electric-car market -- a chance to atone for the EV1 blunder -- with the Bolt. This is GMís first purpose-built regular production electric car since the EV1 17 years ago.