Tested: 1997 General Motors EV1 Proves to Be the Start of Something Big

From the March 1997 issue of Car and Driver.

Dear Diary,

The EV1 arrived today. That stands for “Electric Vehicle 1.” You know, you plug it in, off it goes. We have it for four days.


To test the straight-line performance of the EV1, we truck it to a desert test site 80 miles north of L.A. Well, it might go that far on its own power, but then we’d have to recharge it to fairly assess its performance three hours-if we had a 220-volt 6.6-kilowatt GM MagneCharge station, which we don’t—or 14 hours if we could locate a plain 01′ standard 110-volt outlet to plug in the on-board 1.2-kilowatt charger.

Charging Ahead

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To start the EV1, we simply tap in a five-digit code on a keypad located on the console-the same code opens the doors—and then press “RUN,” activating the warning lights and the self-check sequence. We move the gearshift into drive and put our foot to the accelerator. The road is damp, and there’s some wheelspin, but the 0-to-60 time of 8.4 seconds confirms GM’s boast of “under nine seconds,” and the quarter-mile time of 16.7 seconds at 79 mph seems reasonable.

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Our testing has put only 12 miles on the odometer, but already the charge indicator tells us we’ve used up half the power supply. And the range predictor says we have just 20-some miles left in the battery bank. That’s because we’ve driven the EV1 hard-two full-throttle acceleration tests and the standard 30-to-50-mph, 50-to-70, and 5-to-60 runs-and the gauge bases its range estimations on the most recent driving behavior. We reload the EV1 onto the flatbed, and back at our L.A. office, we plug it into a borrowed MagneCharge station. It takes exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes to recharge it fully.

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We leave the office at 5:30 p.m. for the 4.9-mile freeway jaunt home. The EV1 has more than enough performance to merge and spar with manic Angeleno drivers, and its top speed of 80 mph is adequate. On arrival at home, the range meter reads 27 miles, the gauge declares we’ve used a 10th of the power supply, and the EV1 requires three hours of charging to top off the batteries using the small 110-volt charging unit it carries in its narrow-but deep trunk. This may be a surprise, but it takes more time to charge the batteries from 80 to 100 percent than it does to charge them up from 20 percent to 40 percent. Either way, it’s a nice feeling to fill up with a plug rather than having to reach for cash at a gas station.


Our plan is to drive the EV1 only to work and home, which is the whole point of this electric commuter car. It handles the five-mile distance without a hitch—and we’ve turned on the headlights, the wipers, and the radio during the trip. The weather is cool, so we don’t need the air conditioning. Despite our good-citizen behavior, the car is still predicting ranges based on the hard driving we did during testing. So even when it’s fully charged, the gauge tells us we have only 25 or so miles left.

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