Why GM's EV1 Became One Of The Rarest Cars In The World

Back in the '90s before electric vehicles became a thing, General Motors embarked on an ambitious project: it was going to build a fully electric vehicle known as the EV1. This was after a regulation was passed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that required at least 2% of all automobiles sold by the largest auto manufacturers in California state by 1998 to be zero-emission vehicles. Ironically, GM had unveiled an electric concept car called Impact and over-promised that it could deliver 100,000 units per year at the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show – this inspired CARB to draft the policy.

Since GM didn't want to lose its largest market share in the U.S, it produced 1,117 electric vehicles between 1996 and 1999. The automaker had no intention of selling the EV1 to customers and it was only available for leasing with no purchase clause after the contract expired. Here is the kicker, though: after CARB was forced to reverse the Zero Emission Vehicle policy in a federal court lawsuit, GM gradually recalled almost all of the leased EV1 vehicles and destroyed them. The few that survived had the control units and batteries removed before they were handed out to museums and universities, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

GM didn't manage to get back all of its EV1 cars

Apparently, GM didn't get its hands on all of the 1,117 electric vehicles that were sent to customers and later recalled because some drivers refused to hand over the vehicle. According to The Drive, a lone survivor EV1 was discovered abandoned in a parking garage in Atlanta. Even though it's not clear who leased the EV1 before it was forgotten in a garage, it looks like it's in nearly drivable condition, assuming you managed to install a drive unit and a battery pack.

Besides that, the only verified private owner of a GM EV1 outside of a museum is movie director Francis Ford Coppola. "I really loved this car, and when I heard they [GM] were going to destroy them all, I hid it so that they couldn't get it", Francis Ford Coppola confirmed in Season 1, Episode 8 of "Jay Leno's Garage."

Other reports about alleged GM EV1 cars spotted outside of museums are just unverified rumors, and that's why the electric vehicle remains one of the rarest cars in the world. The question still remains: what if the automaker hadn't recalled and destroyed all those EV1 vehicles? It's hard to say, but one thing is for sure: GM is back in the EV industry and this time, it's here to stay.