Building a fast electric vehicle came easy. The challenge General Motors faced when developing the EV1 in the 1990s was producing it at a low cost with a driving range practical for the average consumer's commute.
"That all points back to the battery," said Don Runkle, vice president of GM's North America engineering operations when the EV1 was developed. "There was not enough range. People would never put up with eight hours of charge time. They definitely would not put up with batteries that cost more than the car."
Such battery challenges hindered mass adoption of the EV1 and were part of the reason the car was built from only 1996 to 1999.
The first generation of the EV1 was powered by a lead-acid battery with an 80-mile range. For the 1999 model, GM upgraded to a nickel-metal hydride battery, increasing the range to as much as 160 miles on a full charge.
"It had better energy density but still nowhere near competitive to what you would need against gasoline," said Runkle.