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The Car That Could: The Inside Story of GM's Revolutionary Electric Vehicle Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (August 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067942105X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679421054
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The story of General Motors' first mass-produced electric car, the EV1 (at first, unfortunately, named the Impact). This project was decades in gestation, the early dreams of pollution and noise-free vehicles taking a long time to progress beyond visionary prototypes. This was partly because of opposition to the concept from oil companies and the automotive industry. Eventually a combination of government prodding and technological advances in battery design made it possible. Schnayerson describes the supportive role of GM chairman Robert Stempel and the tenacity of a group of true-believing engineers who kept the idea alive after Stempel was ousted.

From Publishers Weekly

Hailed as the first practical electric passenger car, General Motors' Impact faces an uncertain future, with doubts about whether a market will materialize for a high-priced auto with significantly limited range and few recharging options. The sleek, small, battery-powered aluminum prototype, which runs silently with no engine or tailpipe, owes its existence to ex-GM chairman Roger Smith, who on Earth Day 1990 publicly declared that GM would mass-produce an electric vehicle (EV). He then resigned. When his successor, Robert Stempel, was replaced in 1992, the Impact development team of engineers was significantly downsized, and the project seemed dead. Secret talks initiated by the Impact team with Ford and Chrysler to consider an EV consortium led instead to GM's renewed commitment to the project, which was kept under wraps. Shnayerson, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, recreates a remarkable, inspiring saga of glitches, unexpected setbacks, power struggles and ingenuity, and in doing so he tells how GM, once stagnant, resistant to technological change and battered by foreign rivals, staged a comeback. Photos. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Shnayerson tells the story up to when the GM Impact was introduced.
V. R. Padgett
So in my mind, "The Car That Could" should be required reading for anyone who wants to participate in the electric vehicle industry.
Edward Durney
You can see the seeds of future GM executive decisions regarding the EV1 mentioned in the book though.
J. Waugh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mike Thompson on January 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
...Reading this book is all
the more interesting whe you realize how well the Gen II EV1
with improved batteries works. An impressive work by GM and Michael Schnayerson in covering it so well.
Unfortunately, the initial Delco/Delphi batteries in the first generation EV1 underdelivered and weren't very reliable.
The Gen II EV1 changed all that once they got decent batteries. The new High-capacity lead-acid battery pack is 55 to 95 miles per charge by GM specification. Some drivers achieve over 100 miles on these daramatically improved lead acid batteries. ...
Thanks for your time!
m.t.thompson@ieee.org
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Michael Schnayerson's chronicle of the building of this car is more important in pre-war 2003 than ever before. The designers, engineers and builders are real heros,producing real solutions when we need them most. Their story should be told everywhere.
I've driven the EV1 for the past five years and I'm here to say that it worked. Michael, if you're out there, consider writing the sequel. The story continues with global consequences...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book was one of the best informational books I've ever read. Usually, I'm interested in novels with tons of action, however, I had to do a thesis for school, which ended up being on New Methods of Non-Pollutant Transportation. I assumed that this book, like most informational books would be extremely boring. However, having read it, it seems so much like a novel, with a plot, protagonists, antagonists, etc. It's very much like a novel. I've never read anything like this before, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read a great success story.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Edward Durney VINE VOICE on November 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The book "The Car That Could" tells the story of GM's EV1 much better than the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?". The book tells the story of the EV1's birth. That is of course a more hopeful story than the EV1's death, which the film covers. And that fact alone makes a big difference in the impact of the story that is told.

But there is another difference. "The Car That Could" tells the inside story of how the EV1 came to be. People within GM make a huge effort to give birth to the car. This was no sham attempt to live up to the California Air Resources Board mandate to put electric cars on the road. GM clearly had its technical and marketing people do their best work. And they did build a great little car, a car that could.

As we know now, though, GM's EV1 did not live very long. The passion of those who put their money down to lease the cars could not make up for the fact that they were few in number. When the California Air Resources Board's mandate went away, that spelled doom for the EV1.

No new EV1s were made. Those that had been made were crushed. A sad end for the car that could.

But though the film "Who Killed the Electric Car" implies that GM killed the EV1, the reasons for its death were more complex than that. And the real story of its death has not, I think, been told. Certainly not as well, and with so much insight, as the story of its birth.

But the story of the electric car has not ended. And there may be some hope for a happy ending. Recently GM's CEO Rick Wagoner has said that he regrets the decision to kill the EV1. And GM promises to come out soon with a new series hybrid electric car. That may put GM back into competition with Toyota and Honda, and their parallel hybrid cars.
Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The Car That Could is a good account of the people involved in the project and the difficulties that they overcame. At times is seemed that the project was doomed, thank goodness it suceeded! It is light on technical details and the author makes a number of gaffes concerning the units of electrical power and energy. As of August, 1989 only approximately 200 vehicles have been leased in Southern California, San Francisco and Arizonia. I shudder to think of the cost of these vehicles to GM.
There is no account of driving the EV1, perhaps the author never had the chance. It is a very exciting vehicle to drive, quiet, with adequate acceleration and top speed. But with typical driving (as if it were a conventional car) the available range with a full charge seems to be 35 to 40 miles. I suppose with experience, and a light foot, it would be possiible to acheive the rated EPA range of 80 miles, but the tempation to drive the car harder is well nigh irresistable. The ride is wonderfully smooth, particularly considering the 50 psi inflation of the tires. The handling is excellent, it feels like a sports car.
Overall, an good account of the project. I hope another more technical book is written in the future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 28, 1997
Format: Hardcover
An excellent in depth and behind closed doors documentary
and profile of the corporate and technical birth of the
GM EV1. The technical hurdles solved in the development
of this electric vehicle pale in comparison to the
public and closed door negotioations surrounding this
vehicle.

GM in a struggle with profitability maintains the
commitment to take this vehicle from a one off prototype
fueled by the inspirational GM SunRaycer solar vehicle to
a production car.

Issues of manufacturability, customer comfort and
corporate funding all have to come together to make
a production car.

It's a roller coaster ride of corporate divisions,
executives, stockholders, engineers and manufacturing
personnel that breathe life into this vehicle.

The 1998 2% electric vehicle mandate in California,
competitors at Ford and Chrysler underscore the importance
electric vehicles and the quest for cleaner air to breathe.

The ultimate solution to breathable air is still in
evolution. This book gives personal insight into the
trials, sacrifices and triumphs of people making a first step into modern electric vehicles
within an established large auto company.

A must read for Electric Vehicle enthusiast. An engaging
story for anyone interested in breaking the mold and
daring projects that re-invent the corporation. This
is destined to be a "tail wags dog" story for GM!
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