In California and Arizona, a handful of consumers are gleefully driving past filling stations. The cars they drive spew no fumes and guzzle no gas. These drivers are behind the wheel of the EV1 two-seat coupe from General Motors Corp., the first mass-production electric vehicle in the U.S. Six years after unveiling plans for an electric vehicle and abundant technology changes later, the EV1 gives U.S. consumers the first sampling of an electric vehicle by design, not an altered conventional car. Jim Ellis, platform director for engineering for General Motors Advanced Technology Vehicles, says the EV1 was "an engineer's dream" because of the numerous technical challenges that had to be overcome to create this rolling package of innovation:
- A three-phase, alternating-current, 137-horsepower induction motor provides the torque that turns the wheels, accelerating the coupe to 60 miles per hour in nine seconds and a top speed of 80 mph.
- Twenty-six lead-acid recyclable batteries feed a 312-volt electrical system. Lightweight, plastic-coated paddles inserted into a charge port recharge batteries in just three hours (useful range is 70 to 90 miles). The system makes no direct electrical connections, thus, says GM, it provides safe use in all weather conditions.
- An all-aluminum recyclable structure reduces the entire EV1's body mass to just 1,800 pounds, yet meets crash-test standards.
- Power-assisted brakes are electrically applied, and regenerative braking uses the vehicle's kinetic energy to recharge batteries.
- Power steering is energized by an electrical power-steering pump that's used only when needed, which cuts power demand by 65% compared with a hydraulic system.
- A heat pump uses environmentally friendly R134a refrigerant and a variable-speed compressor to provide both heating and cooling at one-third the energy requirements of a conventional heat pump. The EV1 also preconditions the interior before use, reducing in-use demand.