Different Roads 
GM EV1. 1996.
GM EV1. 1996.
Courtesy General Motors
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The two-passenger EV1 is the first electric automobile made by a major manufacturer for large-scale distribution and production. Its radical design makes it remarkably efficient in terms of aerodynamics and weight, a fact made more crucial given its electric power plant. The car is the most aerodynamically "slippery" car in production, with rear wheels that are nine inches closer together than the front wheels creating a tear-drop shape, covered rear wheels, and a flat-bottomed undercarriage. Its light weight results from its aluminum skeletal frame, or space frame, paired with composite plastic body panels that are actually, in many areas, glued to the frame. These plastic body panels are extremely sturdy and easily replaceable. The car’s overall weight has been even further reduced by such innovations as a magnesium steering wheel.
The aerodynamic qualities and light weight give the car acceleration and a top speed similar to a quality gas-powered car. The 137-horsepower motor can go from 0—60 in nine seconds. The motor never needs a tune-up, and the oil never needs replacing. The batteries, however, have a life expectancy of only 25,000 to 30,000 miles. Refreshingly, no key is necessary to start the car; instead a code is used to open the doors and activate the engine. Regenerative braking converts energy generated by stopping into electricity to assist in recharging the batteries. Otherwise, the EV1 must be recharged at a special charging station or at home with a smaller portable charger. At specially equipped stations, the recharging takes three hours to complete, and at home, the car takes twelve to sixteen hours to recharge fully. Because of its electric motor the car produces zero emission and is extremely quiet–so quiet that a special beeping horn had to be installed to alert pedestrians that the car is coming.



© 1999  The Museum of Modern Art, New York