'Way back in the fall of 1999 or so, stories broke about a serious problem with the charger port on the 1997 model EV-1. One of our club members shared with us photographs of a burned-up garage in San Diego, the fire probably caused by a fault in an EV1 which had been charging in that garage. Fortunately, the garage was separate from its house, and no one was hurt.
There were stories of additional charge port failures and eventually we got, via this club list, authoritative information that a design flaw in the charger port assembly could fail to detect a particular component failure (capacitor short), which would permit charging current to continue through the port despite the failure, which in turn could lead to "thermal runaway" (cute term, huh?) in the charging port assembly during charging. Scorching and melting of the plastic body of the car, as well as a fire, were possible consequences.
This put GM into an awkward position, especially since the 1999 models did not have this problem. The charging system in the 1999 EV1s had been redesigned completely, and, in the redesign, the vulnerable charging components had been moved to inside the metal case of the motor assembly, making them much less susceptible to fire in the event of failure. Having fixed the problem in the 1999 models could imply that GM had been aware of the problem and perhaps increase their liability exposure. In any case, fixing the problem became a real and serious matter.
GM determined that it was not practical to fix the problem in the field, because the fix would require a major redesign of the assemblies, including those inside the motor case, involved with charging. In early 2000 we 1997-model drivers all received letters telling us not to drive our cars and that they would be recalled. During February and March of 2000, flatbed tow trucks began appearing at our houses to take them away.
There was considerable acrimony from some of us about this because of the GM's rather authoritarian style in handling the matter. Some of us drove our cars until the truck appeared, and some of us even locked our garages and refused to release our cars to the tow truck drivers. Our EV1 specialists spent many hours on the phone consoling us, and, in the end, we were all persuaded to yield our cars. GM gave us compensation in the form of returning unused lease payments, an allowance for unused insurance premiums, a rental car for a month, and a coupon worth $2000 off on the purchase of any GM gas car.
We waited for word from GM about when our cars would be returned, but the news came in dribbles. Hints regarded as promises were dropped that our cars would be back in a month, then three months, then after the first of the year (2001), then during the first quarter of 2001, then at the end of the first quarter of 2001. In August 2000 we heard that the cars had been fixed, or maybe were being fixed, but there was some other problem impeding their release. We never did hear what this other problem was, but it was difficult for us to overlook that the CARB hearings were happening in the fall of 2000 and our cars felt like hostages during those hearings. I suppose GM just didn't want us to know what was causing the delay, and so I suppose we never will.
In April 2001, we began to get news that the cars were coming back. EV1 Specialists were calling some of us, and people reported this news to this mailing list. As cars began to be delivered in early summer, news filtered onto this list restoring my hope. At the same time, we were dimly aware that some drivers' situations had changed in the intervening year, and they would not be taking their cars back. A few folks who had never leased an EV1 became hopeful that now maybe they would get one. You must be one of these, Darrell.
It may interest you to know that I, at least, have never been able to fathom how GM decides who gets cars and in what order. Undoubtedly they have their reasons for giving a car to one person before another, and not at all to a third. I can only speculate what these reasons may be. Consider yourself lucky, Darrell. You're at the front of a very long line. And welcome to a very elite clique.
Finally, I got my car back last August, all polished up and shiny like it had never been in a parking lot in its life, with new Panasonic batteries giving it twice the range. It also came with a hefty increase on the mileage allowance in the new lease.
Quite frankly, I am so delighted with getting my car back that GM is completely forgiven for whatever it was I was upset about for the seventeen months before last August.
This story has been recalled entirely from my memory, although I do have every email sent to this list during this period if we ever need more specific information.