The Long Road to Volt
The Volt moved from concept to production in a little more than four years -- a remarkably short period for such a complex vehicle. The truth, however, is that it relies on nearly a century of research and development at GM and incorporates contributions from the farthest-flung corners of the company's once-vast industrial empire.
1912: Electric starter replaces crank starter on Cadillacs. It strikes the deathblow to early electric vehicles, which had been marketed on their simplicity. At the same time, it marks one of the first pairings of an electric motor with a gasoline engine in a mainstream car.
1912: GM establishes short-lived Electric Truck Division as part of GMC.
1939: GM's Electro-Motive Division introduces diesel/electric locomotive.
1960s: GM develops electric propulsion system for Apollo lunar module and lunar rover, both of which are powered by silver-zinc batteries.
1964-1966: GM experiments with Electrovairs -- Chevrolet Corvairs with electric motors in back and large silver-zinc batteries in front. GM claims a range of 40 to 80 miles. GM also builds an Electrovan powered by an early hydrogen fuel cell.
1969: GM displays a series of concepts called 512 Series Urban Cars, among which were an electric vehicle and a gas/electric hybrid.
Early1970s: Spurred by the Arab oil embargo, GM again works on a battery/electric Corvair but determines it isn't feasible, largely due to the limits of onboard electronics.
1977-1980: Recession and the gas crunch bring forth Electrovette, a battery-powered Chevette concept. But gas prices collapse once again.
Early 1980s: GM, like many automakers, begins introducing onboard computers for engine management.
1987: Recently acquired Hughes Electronics develops solar-powered Sunraycer.