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New electric car is environmentally friendly, but pricey

October 16, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Charles Feldman

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Are car-loving Americans ready for electric wheels? General Motors wants to give it a try.

Beginning in December, car buyers in California and Arizona can drive away in the EV1, billed as the first modern passenger vehicle specifically designed to run on electricity.

The EV1's sleek design rivals the looks of many conventional sports cars. But unlike gas-powered automobiles, it has a large battery under the hood and lacks the standard exhaust pipe -- because the car produces no exhaust.


"I think the technology and the environment combine to be the major selling points of the vehicle," said marketing representative Joe Kennedy of Saturn Corporation. The company plans to sell the cars in test markets.

So, it's good for the environment. So what? The most important feature for most prospective car buyers is how the car drives. The car has no ignition key -- just punch in a code, press a button, light the lights and you're off.

The car passed the pickup test, accelerating from zero to 60 quickly (GM says the car can go from zero to 60 in less than 9 seconds). And many drivers may find the experience of thumbing their noses at gas stations truly exhilarating.

Service station owner Steve Speckman noted that the car "does make a whining noise that I guess you'd get used to. It's like a motor."


But exceptional acceleration and a keyless start come at a price. The EV1 will sell for about $33,000, excluding the large battery charger needed at home for the three-hour charge or the portable unit that takes 15 hours to do the job.

GM would prefer you lease the car, but that can set you back more than $600 a month, depending on where you live.

And at least with this version of the electric car, you can't even think about going on a long trip. The car's maximum range is 90 miles on the highway with a top speed of 80 mph.


"Where I live, people commute 120, 150, 200 miles a day," auto columnist Jim Powell said. "This car may not work for them."

By the year 2003, California will demand that 10 percent of the cars an automaker produces be zero-polluting. GM hopes that by introducing the EV1 now, it will be able to pass the competition.


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