The Volt wasn't the first electrified Chevrolet
Chevrolet launched the Volt in December 2010 amid an industry push for electric-drive cars. Talk of battery chemistry, range anxiety and recharging times filled the air.
The Volt represented General Motors' commitment to a new powertrain technology. But longtime Chevy veterans probably felt a twinge of deja vu.
GM's electric-vehicle research traces back more than four decades. Chevrolet has played a central role, beginning in 1964 with the Electrovair I, an electric-powered Corvair. That test car was powered by a silver-zinc battery pack.
GM followed it with the Electrovair II in 1966, for which the company claimed a range of 40 to 80 miles between charges.
Both were pure research cars. But GM edged closer to a production vehicle in 1977 when it produced the Electrovette, a retrofitted Chevette compact. It was powered by a 240-volt lead-acid battery pack.
Although the Electrovette was also a one-off, GM showed it publicly in 1978 at GM Civic Leader meetings around the United States. In the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, GM felt that there might be an opening for electric vehicles.
And, like today, it wanted Chevrolet to be the lead brand.
"General Motors, confident electric vehicles have a definite place in the future of transportation, has designated Chevrolet the lead division for development of an urban battery-powered car," a company statement said.
Like automakers bringing out limited-range EVs today, GM sought to develop "a suitable family auxiliary car for shopping, neighborhood errands or short-trip transportation."
But GM never gave the green light to the Electrovette. In 1978 GM acknowledged that a breakthrough in battery technology was needed - a goal that remains elusive today.
More important, gasoline prices leveled off. American drivers be-came accustomed to higher pump prices and settled back into petroleum-powered vehicles. Chevrolet's launch of an electrified vehicle would wait another 32 years.
You can reach Dave Guilford at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Dave on