Meet The World’s First Volt Plug-In Hybrid: No, Not That One

1980s Volt


In the 1980s, the Electric Auto Corporation built the Silver Volt under special contract with General Motors.

During the 1970s oil crisis, several small city electric vehicles popped up from boutique automakers. The CitiCar /Comuta-Car/Comuta-Van were perhaps the most successful and well known from the period. However, their small size and driving range under 40 miles meant they remained a niche vehicle.

However, the Electric Auto Corporation (EAC) intended to build a more luxurious, desirable, and practical electric car. The Silver Volt chassis and parts of the exterior were courtesy of Buick. The car had a range of 60 miles at 55 mph. The car could be charged from either a 120 or 240-volt outlet.

The Silver Volt could also “quick charge” to 80% in a mere 45 minutes. EAC was testing quick-charging units at the time in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area. Also unique to the forward-thinking Silver Volt was an included backup generator that would more than double the range.

Sir Jon Samuel, president of EAC, stated to Mother Earth News in 1979:

At present we’re in the midst of an intensive testing program studying the performance of our own battery and drive system. We know that GM manufactures a reliable automotive product, so rather than get caught up in all the design headaches that go with building an entirely original vehicle, we purchase our units from the Detroit firm and make our own alterations.

Reportedly, the car’s batteries would have lasted at least 40,000 miles before needing replacement. GM and EAC had initially planned to put the vehicle into production in 1981 but it never came to be. The estimated high price (for the time) of $14,000 likely limited the potential audience for the vehicle. 10 years later the Impact would be introduced to much fanfare and the EV1 would usher in the start to the modern era of electric transportation. But the Silver Volt’s legacy lives on in the Chevrolet Volt and in a bit part in the early 2000’s film Agent Cody Banks.

Source: Mother Earth News

Via: Green Car Reports

[Image via Agent Cody Banks]

Categories: Chevrolet, General


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23 Comments on "Meet The World’s First Volt Plug-In Hybrid: No, Not That One"

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GM had all this knowledge and did not put it to good use.
They could have been world leaders in the EV industry by now.
But now they are just an auto company losing market share in global sales.

Over Promise, Under Deliver

And increasing profits. Some other companies should take note.

Government Motors.

Seriously, give it a rest. Not cleaver, not cute and not true.

No cleaver? I should hope so 😛

Yes, so sad. What would have done with this fabulous technology back in 1980, oh wisest of all manufacturing, marketing and engineering? What fabulous fortunes could have been bestowed on a properly run GM by you?

Considering GM went to bk probably some of us could have done a better job or at least the same at managing the company.

You mean the lead acid battery based car that cost 3x as much as average selling car (3x of today’s average selling price would have been $93K). Okay, maybe it was only 2.78x. But the fact remains that it was too expensive back then and will be too expensive until we have the better and cheaper battery.

While I don’t want to support the comments of an EV hater like Dav8or, at the same time I don’t think it’s realistic to believe that a car powered by lead-acid batteries could ever have found anything more than a tiny niche market, and would have been significantly overpriced due to low volume manufacturing.

It’s nice to dream about what might have happened if the EV revolution had begun in the 1980s, but the reality is that the modern EV revolution did have to wait for better batteries. “Who Killed the Electric Car?” got it wrong; batteries really were largely to blame for the death of the GM EV1.

Yeah but a better battery for the EV1 was invented by an outsider renaissance man using nickel NMiH chemistry. GM bought the patent and sold it to an oil company. The oil company promptly forbid the manufacturing of any more. And even with the crummy lead acids from Delco the EV1 was still good for short commutes and gophering.

While there certainly does seem to be some factual basis for the conspiracy theory that Chevron bought a patent for large format NiMH* batteries only to bury it, at the same time that never prevented auto makers from using NiMH batteries for their cars. Many PHEVs use NiMH battery packs to this day.

*NiMH = Nickel Metal Hydride. Not “NMiH”.

Yeah, I hate EVs so much I bought one a year and half ago and drive it every day just so I can stew and marinate in the hate. I even sold my ICE car just so I can hate even harder. It’s not easy to hate EVs, but a hater’s got to do what a hater’s got to do.

Yes, the EV1 in its existing form didn’t have the potential to become a mainstream success — but as Bob Lutz admitted himself, killing off the entire program was a big mistake nevertheless.

Hindsight is always 20/20

Was not a bad looking car.

For 79/80? Not bad looking at all!

From what I can tell, the original prototype was a more conventional station wagon. Later revisions looked like a sportier hatch… as you can see in the above photo. But info on the vehicles development is limited.

Too bad EAC never took it to full production.

The batteries were lead acid, or something else?

Lead Acid from what I have found. Not a lot of info out there about the car since it never entered production however.

Check out the Mother Earth News article for the largest amount of info and their impressions of the vehicle.

According to this better report on the car in Green Car Reports, it was a special lead acid battery developed by GM for faster recharge. They also claim 80-100 miles AER which seems unlikely. Probably this was the range combined with the gas engine engaged.

Interesting bit of history, except that this of course wasn’t the world’s first plug-in hybrid — not even close. The first plug-in hybrids were made in (small) series in the early 20th century, if not before.

The sticker price of my 1980 Mercury Zephyr was $6060.

$14,000 would be an EXPENSIVE car, especially If you needed new batteries at 40,000 miles. Of course the Original Delco EV1 batteries would only last a year, so who knows how long the batteries would REALLY last.

I agree that EV’s can thank Cell Phones for making batteries cheap enough to drive electric cars.

I’m pretty sure notebooks played a bigger role in bringing batter costs down.