5 Electric Cars That Have Failed Miserably

Some of the Worst Flops in Automotive History

Although most of us simply don’t pay attention to such everyday events, we’re currently witnessing electric vehicle renaissance. All-electric range in hybrid cars and overall range in 100% electric cars is increasing with each passing day. At the same moment, charging times are slowly but steadily being cut down to acceptable levels. But things weren’t all that rosy just a few years ago. Moreover, they were simply dreadful some two decades ago when first generation of electric cars tried to make its mark in automotive world.

First electric vehicles were all but practical. They were rather expensive, yet they failed to compensate by offering anything tangible. Most of all, all of them were plagued by lack of any real range. New, experimental technology is almost never fully applicable from the get-go. After Tesla had taken over, things started looking up. Modern day electric cars can carry you across great distances without the fear of becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere if your battery runs out of juice.

This time we’re looking back at some of the worst electric cars ever produced. Whether these were built as a compromise in order to satisfy the EPA, or they were genuine shots at the electric car market, they never stood a chance due to their shortcomings. People simply never considered them at all while shopping for a new ride, hence they disappeared from the scene failing miserably at trying to achieve at least a hint of respectable sales figures.

2010-2012 Think City

Think City (spelled Th!nk) was made out of recycled body parts, yet it was expensive, uderpowered and plagued by short range. On top of that, it also sported rather questionable styling. So, how it managed to sell more than 2,500 units over the course of 4 years (European production started in 2008), still baffles us.

To be fair, Norwegian-made automobile was one of only five registered 100-percent electric cars in the US at the time of its arrival. And all kinds of incentives (including company’s own rebate), could have slashed that hefty $36,500 price tag to more bearable levels. Still, only 50 hp and 66 lb-ft of torque generated by petite 34 kW electric motor didn’t do it any favors. Top speed was advertised at 70 mph, although Think City managed more than 80 mph. By doing so, however, hatchback severely cut its already short 99-mile range. Slow sales and lack of major automaker’s cash flow resulted in Think Global’s bankruptcy, in the end. It was their fourth bankruptcy in as many as 20 years. One would have thought they’ve learned something the first three times!

2014-2016 Cadillac ELR

Cadillac ELR is a proof that even well-established automakers with both means and know-how to create and market something new, can fail miserably at doing so. This highly refined and expensive hybrid electric was Cadillac’s first foray into the electric car market. Judging by the way this adventure has gone, it’ll likely be their last. At least for the time being.

Unlike most hybrids with polarizing design, Cadillac ELR was one rather handsome car. Moreover, it was well executed inside as well. It was based on Chevy Volt, and even featured the same powertrain. 1.4L in-line 4-cylinder engine, synchronous electric motor and 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack (18.4 kWh pack in 2016) for combined total output of 217 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. ELR was good enough for 35 all-electric (53 later on) and 380 to 420 total miles.

So, what was the issue here? Clear and simple, price tag. I mean, would you have paid $75,000 for pimped up Chevy Volt? Even enhanced 2016 year model which was $10,000 cheaper was still pushing it to far. Cadillac ELR was doomed from the beginning. It was always intended for a limited market, but just shy of 3,000 units sold in more than three years was much too cruel fate even for the pompous ELR.

2012-2013 Coda

The Coda blues is one of the deepest of them all. Electric sedan entered the California market with much enthusiasm and managed to sell a total of… wait for it… 117 units. All that within one year span from March 2012 to April 2013. Although 2012 doesn’t sound like it happened that long ago, it was actually more like a few decades ago in electric car’s years. Back then, Coda Automotive claimed their offspring could travel up to 125 miles on a single charge. Although EPA disputed that and lowered the bar to 88 miles, that was still one of the longest all-electric ranges available back then.

So, what was the problem with Coda sedan? Price was set at $37,250. That was a price of drab sedan based on Chinese-built 2005 Hafei Saibao, which in turn sports 1997 Mitsubishi Lancer chassis. Coda Automotive only updated front and rear fascias and hoped they’d done enough. Well, they didn’t. Apart from being boring, Coda sedan was already aged at that point. Company filed for bankruptcy on May 1 2013, but that’s not where the story ends. Mullen Technologies Inc. actually bought off the remaining unsold units and is currently trying to sell them as Mullen 700e. In their words, all-new electric car (yeah, right) now sports 180-mile projected range and costs… Well, they never disclosed the price. You’ll have to contact them in order to find out. But, I’d say it’s more than $40,000. Would you spend that money on a car that’s been recycled… twice?

2006-2009 ZAP Xebra

ZAP corporation thought they’d pull one right by NHTSA but they miscalculated the percentages. By marketing ZAP Xebra with only three wheels, they could bypass strict safety regulations as Xebra was legally considered a three-wheel motorcycle. Apart from being a motorcycle (of sorts), Xebra was also either sedan or pickup. And sedan came with all four doors and four seats. Who needs the fourth wheel when you got those, right? Pickup, on the other hand, had a dump bed with fold-down sides and tailgate.

Although by now ZAP Xebra sounds like fun, it wasn’t. Xebra was motivated by 5 kW (6.7 hp) DC electric motor which allowed for crazy speeds of up to 40 mph. Range wasn’t much better either. 1,800-pounder could have traversed maximum of 40 miles. The faster you went (as if that thing understood the concept of speed), the lower the range got. And one more thing. ZAP Xebra was actually imported from China. It was the first Chinese car imported into the US. They went for around $12,500 and came with no airbags, air conditioning or highway capability. Furthermore, they didn’t have functional brakes either. NHTSA finally figured that out in 2013 and ordered all 700 plus sold Xebras recalled and either destroyed or otherwise disabled. That’s how we know how many got sold after all.

ZAP Xebra Sedan

ZAP Xebra Pickup

1997-1998 Chevrolet S-10 EV

Most people still remember GM’s long discontinued three-year only EV1. Although it wasn’t particularly successful, it was still first marketed in 1996 which forbids us from being too harsh on it. Its pickup truck cousin, Chevy S-10 EV, on the other hand, can and should be considered a flop. It sold even less copies than the awkward subcompact coupe. Only 60 units were actually sold, although 492 in total were made. Rest were leased; mostly to fleet customers. When that lease expired, they were recalled and destroyed in order to “protect GM’s proprietary EV technology.”

But the truth, as it’s often the case, was somewhat deeper. By destroying most of EV1’s and S-10 EV’s, in one fell swoop, GM also protected themselves from liability lawsuits. After all, S-10 EV had 312 volts on board. Moreover, they also protected their dealers from having to service discontinued electric vehicles with deficitary parts. Although its rarity makes it somewhat cool in our eyes, Chevrolet S-10 EV was a flop if ever I saw one. Why would you make something if you were planning on destroying all evidence of it afterwards, anyway?


Categories: List Articles

Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Although driving a piece of junk, Nikola is a true car enthusiast. Precious few things move him as muscle cars do – especially those from the bygone golden era. Which makes him wonder; why wasn’t he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he’s been able to enjoy the likes of Pontiak Aztek, Fiat Multipla, and their “lovely” coevals this way – right? (sigh)