1987: GM funds Sunraycer, a solar powered demo car built by Paul MacCready (of Gossamer Condor fame), Alec Brooks, and Alan Cocconi.
1988: These three found AeroVironment, a company whose goal is to build an electric car using ideas from Sunraycer. They get funding from GM to build a prototype.
1989: AeroVironment builds "Santana". Using lead-acid batteries, the car goes 75mph and over 100 miles on a charge.
1990: GM introduces it with much fanfare in January 1990 as "Impact".
1990: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) was concerned about the horrendous pollution problems of standard cars, (smog -- and yes -- global warming). They also saw electric vehicles (because of the astounding performance of the Impact) as an important part of the solution. Thus, they introduced The Mandate, which required the 7 major automakers to have 2% of their fleet in California have zero emissions by 1998. (Also 5% by 2001 and 10% by 2003.)
1990 -- 1996: GM turns Impact into a real production car called the EV1. The book "The Car That Could" by Michael Shnayerson chronicles this story. (read chapter 2).
1996: GM begins mass producing EV1, and begins to lease the cars in California.
1996: Under industry pressure, CARB backs away from the 2% requirement in 1998.
1996-1998: Other manufactures introduce electric vehicles in response to the mandate.
2002: Lawsuit filed by auto makers (with assistance from the US justice department) against the mandate.
2003: Mandate is basically eliminated. (Note: Alan Lloyd, chairman of CARB is also the chairman of the California Fuel Cell Partnership.)
2004: Before the end of 2004, GM recalls all EV1s. GM refuses even to sell the vehicles to buyers.
2005: GM crushes all of its EV1s.