After GM ended production of the EV1 in 1999, some of the automaker's alternate powertrain experiments at times faded from the fore, but they continued, said Steve Tarnowsky, GM's chief engineer for EV propulsion and a veteran of the EV1 program.
"Certainly from the component technologies — the motors and power electronics and batteries — we never stopped. Those were just applied differently on other systems," he said.
Most GM employees who worked on the EV1 continued to work on some form of electrification, he said.
EV1 learnings were transferred to other projects, such as the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid and the GM-Allison hybrid city bus. "We had a positive impact on the industry. All of that petroleum that gets displaced by those plug-in hybrids and extended-range electric vehicles, good came out of that," Tarnowsky said.
The EV1 platform — the structural battery pack and actively cooled battery cells — became a foundation upon which the automaker continued to improve, said Grewe.
"It all started back on the EV1. And then we just kept on introducing more density, more technology, to realize the benefits at the integrated level," he said.
When GM unveiled plans for the Bolt EV in 2015 in Detroit, Reuss, who was global product chief at the time, touched on the legacy of the EV1.
"We had the first electric car. And we didn't follow it up. Think of where we would be today if we hadn't done that," Reuss told Automotive News in January 2015. "We are not going to make that mistake again."
Although EV1 production was short-lived — from 1996 to 1999 — it left a legacy of EV insight, said Larry Burns, GM's corporate vice president of R&D and planning from 1998 to 2009.
"There's real evidence out there that, either knowingly or subliminally, that know-how made its way into the industry in significant ways," Burns said. "And it's led to where we are today."
Pete Bigelow contributed to this report.