The Crystal Ball

Published by The Bee News

March 20, 2024

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The crystal ball can’t be trusted to give an accurate picture of the future. Still, a quick glimpse gives a hint of the electrifying future for the automobile, related infrastructure, and the role of General Motors in the development of the technologies that will transform the way we drive.

Did you know that General Motors has been involved with electric vehicle development for more than 100 years? Between 1911 and 1990 the company has produced an array of electric vehicles, experimental as well as production models. General Motors, as it continues to do today, also played pivotal roles in the advancement of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles. It was the 1911 Cadillac that first offered an electric starter.

Here is a partial list of the various prototypes and concepts developed by GM.

– The **Olds Electric Car** (1912): This was a product of the Olds Motor Co., which joined GM in 1908. It was a typical electric car of its time, marketed as a convenient and refined choice for women.
– The **GMC Electric Trucks** (1912-1917): These were commercial vehicles for urban use that used batteries and motors from the Electrobat company, which was founded by two pioneers of electric cars, Pedro Salom and Henry G. Morris.
– The **Electrovair** (1966) and **Electrovette** (1976): These were experimental conversions of existing GM models (the Corvair and the Chevette) that used silver-zinc batteries and AC induction motors. They had decent performance and range, but the batteries were too expensive and short-lived.
– The **512 Series** (1979): This was a group of six electric vehicles that GM built for testing purposes. They used lead-acid batteries and DC motors, and had a top speed of 45 mph and a range of 40 miles.
– The **Sunraycer** (1987): This was a solar-powered car that GM built in collaboration with AeroVironment and Hughes Aircraft. It won the first World Solar Challenge, a 1,950-mile race across Australia, by a huge margin. It inspired GM to pursue more research on electric cars.
– The **Impact** (1990): This was the first modern electric car designed for a mass market by GM. It was unveiled at the 1990 LA Auto Show by GM chairman Roger Smith, who announced that GM would produce 100,000 units per year. It had a sleek aerodynamic design, a top speed of 75 mph and a range of 120 miles.

The Impact later evolved into the **EV1**, which was launched in 1996 as the first mass-produced electric car by a major automaker in modern times.

GM’s EV1, which was launched in 1996 as a result of the California Air Resources Board’s zero-emission vehicle mandate. The EV1 was a two-seater coupe that could travel up to 140 miles on a single charge. It was leased to select customers in California and Arizona, but was discontinued in 2003 due to low demand, high costs, and lack of infrastructure.

GM recalled and crushed most of the EV1s, sparking protests and lawsuits from environmentalists and enthusiasts. One of the cars is preserved in the collection owned by Jay Leno. There are plans to add another survivor to the EV museum in Kingman, Arizona.

GM’s next electric vehicle was the Chevrolet Volt, which debuted in 2010 as a plug-in hybrid that could run on both electricity and gasoline. The Volt had a range of 35 miles on battery power, and another 300 miles on gas. It was praised for its innovation and efficiency, but also faced criticism for its high price and limited availability. GM sold over 150,000 Volts in the US until it ended production in 2019.

GM has also experimented with other alternative energy vehicles, such as hydrogen fuel cells and biofuels. In 2002, GM launched the HydroGen3, a fuel cell vehicle based on the Opel Zafira minivan. It had a range of 250 miles and emitted only water vapor. GM tested the HydroGen3 in several countries, but never mass-produced it due to technical and cost challenges. In 2007, GM introduced the E85 FlexFuel system, which allowed some of its vehicles to run on ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn or other plants.

In addition to making electric vehicles, GM is also working on improving the charging infrastructure and customer experience for EV owners. GM has partnered with EVgo, the largest public fast charging network in the US, to add more than 2,700 new fast chargers across the country by 2025. GM also offers its customers access to the myChevrolet, myBuick, myGMC and myCadillac mobile apps, which can help them locate charging stations, monitor battery status, schedule service appointments, and more.

When you purchase a new car or truck from Findlay Chevy GMC in Bullhead City, Arizona, you are buying a century long tradition of innovation, of styling, and of durable vehicles.

 

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