1997 EV1 Donated to the National Museum of American History

March 14, 2005
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has acquired a silver-blue, 1997 ‘Generation I’ General Motors EV1 for its transportation collections. The museum received the electric vehicle, a selection of archival material and supporting artifacts as gifts from General Motors. The EV1 will be on display on the first floor of the museum until the end of April. In the late 1980s, GM began experimenting with producing an electric car for the mass market. In 1990, in collaboration with outside engineers, the company designed the Impact, an electrically powered vehicle, intended for mass-production. As the design process continued, the Impact became the stylish two-seater EV1. GM produced about 1,000 of the cars between 1996 and 1999. The EV1, which was introduced to much interest by the public and the press, was leased rather than sold. Although drivers liked the car’s smooth, quiet and clean operation, limited seating capacity and range (50-125 miles on a single charge) remained drawbacks. GM pulled the plug on EV1 in 2004. “The EV1 is a very interesting example of an attempt to create a commercially viable electric vehicle for the 21st century,” said Roger White, the museum’s road transportation curator. “Although a viable consumer market sufficient to continue and expand mass-production never emerged, the EV1 represents the automobile industry’s early attempt to develop fuel efficient and sustainable cars in the face of growing concerns about pollution and the availability of fossil fuels.” “GM has gained a great deal of knowledge from the EV1 program by bringing advanced technologies to the automobile and to the marketplace like never before. This knowledge is now being applied to fuel efficiency and emissions improvements in today’s cars and trucks, our hybrid vehicles and to our fuel cell technology for the future,” said Ken Stewart, marketing director of New Ventures at GM. Electric cars are not a new phenomenon in automotive history. The EV1 is the sixth electric car that the museum has collected; it joins a 1900 Riker closed car, a 1904 Columbia open car, a 1914 Rauch and Lang closed car, a 1913 Commercial truck, and the 1987 GM Sunraycer solar electric car. The electric vehicles are part of the museum’s collection of more than 70 automobiles -- many of which are on display in the permanent exhibition, “America on the Move,” an exhibition of more than 300 transportation artifacts that allow visitors to travel back in time and experience transportation as it shaped American lives and landscapes.