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GM Pulls Plug On Electric Car

General Motors EV1 electric car 1997
AP
It is sleek and streamlined, fast and electric. But as CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports, General Motors' EV1, the car of the future, is about to become a thing of the past.

"I can out accelerate most of the cars on the road without using a drop of gas," says Greg Hanssen, who owns an EV1.

"Get a good look at it because when it goes away, it's gone," says Patrick Preminger, another EV1 owner.

General Motors is pulling the plug on its electric car. The company never sold it, it only leased the car and is now demanding every EV1 be returned.

Greg Hanssen led a campaign to save the little cars from the crusher.

"We had $22,000 turned in from over 80 individuals who said 'can I hold onto my car.' And they said 'No, you cannot hold onto your car,'" says Hanssen.

When GM's chairman unveiled the EV1 seven years ago at the Detroit International Auto Show, it seemed there was finally an alternative to gasoline.

"GM's goal is to make a business out of the electric car," said Jack Smith, chairman of General Motors.

In a commercial, GM suggested electric cars would soon be as common as toasters.

Those commercials boldly announced, "The electric car is here."

But General Motors built only about a thousand EV1's, available only in California and Arizona. General Motor's Ken Stewart says few people wanted a car that had to be plugged in every hundred miles or so.

"After ten years and investing over a billion dollars we think its time to move on," says Stewart.

When the EV1 was introduced California was setting tough new standards for cutting air pollution from cars. But since then GM and other automakers have gone to court delaying those standards. With the immediate pressure gone, the EV1 is going too.

Linda Preminger calls the situation "heartbreaking".

The Premingers hate to lose their EV1.

"It's not a luxury car, but it's the best car I have ever driven. And you don't have to smell the gasoline fumes," says Linda.

GM is now touting a new car of the future that runs on hydrogen, but it won't be for sale for years. So as the EV1 disappears, so does the brief hope for freedom from the gas pump.