Electric Vehicles Took Off. Car Makers Weren’t Ready

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Alfred Peru
Electric Vehicles Took Off Car Makers Werent Ready

Electric vehicles, or EVs, were a novelty when they first appeared on the scene. Some people thought they were a purity test. GM, for example, refused to sell EVs to leaseholders, but today, EVs have become mainstream and can travel as much as 329 miles on a charge.

EVs were a novelty or a purity test

The concept of electric vehicles dates back to the early days of the motor car. But as the internal combustion engine took the lead in personal transportation, electric vehicles became a niche category. Over the years, they powered oddball city car concepts. Some even operated like milk floats.

Map of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

GM refused to sell EVs to leaseholders

The decision to stop selling EVs to leaseholders is a blow to the public image of General Motors. While most leases were crushed, a few notable leaseholders, including filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, managed to hold on to their leases. Nonetheless, GM has incorporated its experience in designing and manufacturing electric vehicles into new models, including the fully electric Chevrolet Bolt.

Tesla Roadster

Musk’s Tesla Roadster was a technological marvel and it took a while before it hit the market. It took three years to reach production and was delayed for several reasons. One of those was Musk’s design preferences. Although he rarely visited the company’s headquarters, he often dictated changes. Those changes were mostly related to the seat, door handles and doorsills.

Mercedes Smart ForTwo city car

In Canada, the Mercedes Smart ForTwo was introduced in September 2004 through a network of Mercedes-Benz dealers. The car offered only a turbo-diesel powerplant for the coupe and convertible models. Its petrol-powered counterpart would have required a redesigned fuel vapor recovery system. But sales were brisk in the first few months and tens of thousands of Smarts were imported during the model year 2005.

GM’s Model S

General Motors has made a big push in the electric vehicle world, and the company’s latest announcement could help it make this vision a reality. The automaker says it plans to build half a million electric vehicles by the year 2025, which will help it catch up with Tesla. It plans to use its new Ultium platform to produce nearly all of its EVs. The company says this will make its vehicles more competitive, and will increase its annual sales by as much as $280 billion by 2030.

In the early 1990s, General Motors made its first serious effort at an electric vehicle. They introduced the EV-1, which had a 140-horsepower electric motor – 30 horsepower more than the Nissan Leaf. However, the program was never commercialized and GM melted back the 1,100 test vehicles it had built since 1996. A 2006 film, Who Killed the Electric Car, attempted to explain why GM suddenly flipped 180 degrees and abandoned the EV program.


Toyota’s recent announcement to stop making gas-powered vehicles has caused a stir. The company produces around 10 million vehicles a year and is now looking at putting them into electric models. The sudden change is not the best move for the environment. While Toyota is not opposed to EVs, it says they weren’t ready.


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