Every now and then, another forlorn dust-covered and inoperable GM EV1 makes the rounds on automotive websites and social media. Typically, it’s heralded as the last of its kind or a major discovery, and some people even make attempts to conceal the cars’ locations as if they were archaeological dig sites that needed to be protected from grave robbers and treasure plunderers. However, the reality is that many of the remaining EV1s not in GM’s hands are on public display, have been well publicized, or have become open secrets among generations of engineering graduates over the last 20 years or so. Amazingly, nobody seems to have made an attempt to run down the current whereabouts of all the GM EV1s still in existence, so let’s do so here.
First, a little background. GM built 1,117 EV1s for public release: 660 in 1997 and another 457 in 1999. None were sold to the general public; all were made available via a lease program to customers in California, Arizona, and Georgia. When those leases came to an end starting in 2003, GM took back every single EV1 and decreed that the cars would be removed from the road permanently. The subsequent crushing of many of the EV1s triggered protests from many of those lessees and others who felt that the car and its advanced technology deserved to remain on the road.
That said, GM didn’t destroy every EV1. Similar to what Chrysler did with the Turbine cars, the company donated some EV1s to museums and some to colleges and universities for their engineering students to pick apart and study. In all but one instance, the donated cars were made inoperable, and as part of the deal, GM mandated that the vehicles not be returned to the road.
But how many exactly escaped GM’s crusher? Sources generally claim 40, but that’s not a hard and fast number, and occasionally somebody will claim less—either 15 or 20. One EV1 fan claims there are as many as 180 EV1s, though some of those may be concept, demonstration, or show cars still owned by GM, and some of that number may have been crushed by GM. According to EV collector Steve Hawkins of the Beata collection, 37 total still exist, with nine of those currently in private hands, though as he noted, owners of the cars still prefer to remain secretive and a tight-knit group. “Just in the last couple of years we discovered another complete original car, but the contacts, trust and relationships to get that information developed over a decade of what we call ‘social engineering,'” Hawkins said. “There is another EV1 we are trying to identify now that will likely take years to verify. Our mission is to help every remaining chassis survive for history and education’s sake.”