The owner’s manual of the GM EV1 shows just how advanced it was.
The 1997 GM EV1 was a car ahead of its time. It was the first modern electric car, hitting the market more than 10 years before the Tesla Roadster surged onto the scene in 2008. It wowed its owners with the smooth and powerful acceleration characteristic of electric powertrains have become known for. It even carried features that today’s most advanced EVs have, more than 20 years later.
While the repossession and crushing of nearly all GM EV1s in 2002 means that there’s not much documentation in existence today, Youtuber Doug DeMuro got his hands on a copy of an original owner’s manual. He shared it in a video, highlighting some of the car’s unique Quirks and Features™.
They’ll be highlighted here too, while comparing them to features that are present in or missing from modern EVs.
Keyless entry and push-button start
Manufacturers have been moving away from using keys to open and start cars for years. The GM EV1 attempted to do the same with 1990s-era technology. The car featured a numeric keypad outside the door and near the push-button start inside. In order to enter and start the car, you needed to enter your code correctly.
This likely felt far more futuristic than using the standard metal keys of the era, but it seems quaint in comparison to the way that Tesla has approached removing keys from the equation entirely. By detecting either the key fob (Model S, Model X), your phone (all models) or key card (Model 3, Model Y), Tesla vehicles will unlock themselves as you approach and start on their own when you place your foot on the brake pedal.
Pedestrian Alert Horn
One of the best parts of driving an electric vehicle is the quiet operation. For pedestrians, on the other hand, the chatter of an internal combustion engine is a warning signal of an approaching car. The EV1 gave drivers a tool to help alert pedestrians of the car’s presence: a courtesy alert horn that’s not as harsh or loud as a normal horn. It was activated by flashing your brights while traveling under 25 miles per hour.
The first-generation Chevy Volt featured a similar horn, though it was activated by a button on the turn signal stalk. New pedestrian-safety regulations are beginning to require EVs emit a constant noise while traveling at low speeds, eliminating the need of a secondary horn.
The GM EV1 featured climate pre-conditioning, allowing a driver to pre-heat or cool the cabin before getting in. The center console even had buttons to set a timer for the feature. Imagine setting your car to be toasty warm on every cold winter morning! In order for this to work, the car had to be plugged in and have more than 80 percent charge.
In addition to allowing you to get into a pre-heated or cooled car, you also extend your range by letting the energy grid do the heavy HVAC lifting. It takes more energy to heat a car from below freezing to 72 degrees than it does to keep a car at 72 degrees. By pre-conditioning the car, you can use electricity from your home or charging station instead of sapping electricity from the battery to get the cabin’s temperature just right before driving off.
You can turn any modern electric car on while it’s plugged in to precondition it, but only select electric vehicles have the convenience of a timer or remote preconditioning available. For example, Tesla allows you to precondition from its mobile app and the BMW i3 will let you schedule preconditioning from the infotainment screen. The Chevy Spark EV requires you to hit a button combination on the key fob to start the process.
It’s easy to forget about a vehicle that nobody has seen on the road for nearly 20 years, but the GM EV1 was a groundbreaking car that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. It’s a great surprise that somebody held onto their owner’s manual after their car was taken—it’s a rare source of information about a car that no longer exists.
You can watch Doug DeMuro’s full video below.