Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Isn't It Ironic?

How is General Motors doing 10 years after halting production of the EV1? It turns out, not so well. They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday, June 1, 2009. In 2003, GM said that they could not sell enough EV1s to make the program profitable. Instead, they focused on less efficient vehicles with virtually no hedge on their big-car strategy. The oil companies rejoiced.

Rick Wagoner, former Chairman & CEO of GM, said that his worst decision of his tenure at GM was “axing the EV1 electric-car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids.”

Larry Burns, GM’s R&D Chief, told Newsweek in March 2007 that he now wishes GM hadn’t killed the plug-in hybrid EV1 prototype his engineers had on the road a decade ago. He added, “If we could turn back the hands of time, we could have had the Chevy Volt 10 years earlier.”

The MINI E is not just another EV. A Field Trial with current technology is an incredibly important opportunity for consumers and a huge data collection exercise for BMW. In my view, this significantly improves the chances of this car going into production one day. It is also important to note that the MINI E is the first in a series of cars that will come from BMW’s new “Program i”. BMW is rumored to announce the next car in this program soon. What do you think it will be?

Almost nobody gets into my MINI E and expects it to perform better than a golf cart. I admit feeling the same sense of surprise when I first drove it and thinking that this car feels better and performs better than its brethren. One friend summed it up nicely for me, “…I can see the future when I drive this car.”

Believe it or not, you can see me on TV again this week. On Friday, I will be interviewed by ABC News for a segment that is scheduled to air that evening locally and then may go nationally over the weekend or early next week. Stay tuned for more details.

Many congratulations to the MINI E Pioneers who have started taking delivery of their cars. I never knew I had so many friends. I hope you are all enjoying the car as much as I have. When is the first MINI E road rally?



  1. Don't know, the MINI E isn't such groundbreaking, it's just like the Tesla Roadster, just leased to "ordinary people" instead of sold to 100.000 $ car guys.
    Talking about the future, viable or not, the Honda FCX Clarity (also leased for 750$ a months if I remember correctly) is much more interesting and "revolutionary". Even the hydrogen powered 7 Series from BMW are more important than the E from this point of view.

    I think the main point of the E is showing ot ordinary people that they can commute even without an internal combustion engine, or a large truck.
    And I absolutely agree with that.

    Just, before of raising too much hype and having all the people calling for electric cars, did they find how to produce all the additional electric energy recharging cars will ask?

    As a mechanical and vehicle engineering student, I ask myself this and other question, and the only solution I got up to know is nuclear plants.
    Solar, wind or river powered plants aren't as efficient or as powerful unfortunately.

    So, are we sure we are ALL ready for the E?

    I don't know, but I'd definitely give it a ride or two! :)

  2. Damiano - They haven't made a HFC car for less than a $1million. It's pie in the sky. A HFC is a poor battery. Very inefficient and not practical. Hydrogen is very hard to contain. Plugin EVs are ready now, have been for 15 years. We have all the electricity we need to run them NOW. I drove a EV1 100% plugin car EV for 3 years. It used about $30 of electricity a month. The same as if you had an extra refrigerator. I refueled it in my garage! I drove the GM H3 hydrogen car. it was gutless compared to the EV1 or the MINI-E. The EV1 and the MINI-E are high performance cars and their technology is tried and true. And solar is the additional power answer. You would find a company in America that will invest in nuclear. It doesn't make money. So it's a moot point. Look at what GE is doing and you will find your answers. Large format traction batteries for EVs are the next big thing. HFCs are way dead.

  3. Hi Peter, As an Ex-EV1 lessee and a member of Plug In America I must correct you. The EV1 was NEVER for-sale. This is a myth that GM for some unknown reason continues to perpetuate. Bob Lutz even lied about this on Letterman recently. Towards the end of the EV1 program there were tens of thousands on a waiting lists to lease an EV1. GM was offered all most $2 million by PIA members for the last 70 EV1 going to the crusher. They refused. See the Movie "Who Killed the Electric Car". I lived this movie. I'll bring you a copy. The next plugin car from any OEM has to be made with lighter materials and has to be way more aerodynamic than the MINI-E. BMW car are strong and heavy. The MINI-E is a conversion. The EV1 was made from the ground up using advanced materials like the new aircraft of today. The only car with a 100% aluminum chassis. The body panels were composite. You could not dent are scratch it. The window glass was made to reduce sun heat inside. The EV1 had the same air drag coefficient of an F-16. It was keyless. And the list goes on. It was way more advanced than the MINI-E conversions we are leasing.

  4. Congrats Peter, we are patiently waiting out here on the east coast.

  5. jeffurenaim:
    I don't think the HFC could be the solution, I'm aware of all the difficulties to face to actually use hydrogen as a fuel (both in a ICE or for fuel cells), and exactly as you mentioned, my point "against" the MINI E is that it isn't nothing new, both as technology and as a "movement", as you had the EV1 way before the MINI was even revived.
    I don't think though that energy plants are up to the task if ALL of us should switch to EVs and charging them during the night.
    And I don't think Solor would help that much. Talking to an Energy Engineer a couple of week ago, he told me there isn't a way to produce so much energy using "green" sources right now. He doesn't like nuclear power, but still think it's a better solution than gas/coal plants.

    Also, the EV1 wan't the first car with a 100% aluminum chassis. Even the Audi A8 mk1 came before of the EV1, for example. And I wouldn't call the MINI E or the EV1 "high performance" cars. Maybe a Tesla, or a Venturi Fetish, but not those.
    The EV1 may have been advanced, but it wasn't cheap either.
    An offer of $2 Million for 70 EV1s is equal to less than 30.000 $ per car. Definitely too little, even 13 years ago.

  6. Damiano, as a student open your eyes to what is possible. That is a disruptive change in the world of energy.

    What is possible today that was not back with the ev1 is nothing less than a change in motive power. Part of that is the great advances of the electric cars like the Mini E over the EV1 even though it is a heavy mule compareed to the EV1 by all measurablea. The real story though is the advance of solar P.V. in the same time frame. You could not power your EV1 and home with solar in the early 90s.

    We are so close to the day where the average person can completely power their home and car with rooftop solar. For a few of that is a reality.

    The adoption of the electric car will be come mass quantities because you can make your own solar or wind fuel not in spite of our current energy production which by the way is about 45% wasted in transmission lost and non storage capacity.

  7. Well said Peter! I took the Sharp solar installation school a few weeks ago to learn the ins and outs of solar. We are way past the tipping point on energy. For cars and homes. Local generation of power will prevail and electric cars will win the day. Because of the biggest force in the world. Money.