• VAUXHALL T CAR - CHEVROLET ELECTROVETTE USA
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The electric car has surprisingly been around almost as long as the petrol driven variety, they started to appear around the turn of the century. It is no joke that the development of electric car technology amounted to zero over the following 60 years. Serious attempts by General Motors to produce such a car did not really start until the early 1960s. Numerous attempts at coming up with a viable electric car and a delivery van culminated in 1966 with the Electrovair based on the Chevrolet Corvair, and the GM Electrovan which was also Chevrolet based.

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THE GENERAL MOTORS ELECTROVAN OF 1966 INCLUDING A CUTAWAY OF HOW THE THING WAS SUPPOSED TO WORK

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A CUTAWAY OF THE CHEVROLET CORVAIR BASED ELECTROVAIR II

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TWO PRESS RELEASE PICTURES OF THE BATTERY PACK MOUNTED WHERE THE ENGINE WOULD NORMALLY BE IN THE REAR ENGINED CORVAIR

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THE TWO ELECTRIC PROTOTYPES NOW RESIDE IN A MUSEUM

In the early 1970s GM went to the other extreme and showed a micro electric prototype car, named the XP512E that was termed as a shart haul 2 seater commuter runabout but it was roughly a quarter of the size of the average American car at the time. It, like the rest, ended in obscurity and were not developed further.

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A CUTAWAY OSHOWING THE MAIN COMPONENTS OF THE XP512E

THE GM EP512E PROTOTYPE ON THE GM DESIGN CENTRE VIEWING AREA

In 1973 with the advent of the fuel crisis, and with petrol prices doubling almost overnight, showcased the US motor industry for just how out of touch with reality it really was. It frightened the shit out of GM!! All of a sudden antique 6 cylinder engines were being sent back into active service hauling land yachts around at a snails pace flat out and proclaiming 17mpg was a real achievement! Behind the scenes, the T Car world car programme had started in 1971 and was never planned as being part of GM's US model line up, this changed in December 1973 and the Chevrolet Chevette was rushed into production for a launch in September 1975. That wasn't enough though, GM's own forward planners were convinced about the real possibility of fuel going to $2.50 a gallon at some point in the near future and that meant having a plan in place to react. General Motors Advanced Engineering Division were tasked with reverse engineering the Chevrolet Chevette into an electric car.

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THE 1975 CHEVROLET CHEVETTE WAS THE SMALLEST CAR MADE IN AMERICA WHEN LAUNCHED

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KEN BAKER WAS PUT IN CHARGE OF THE ELCTROVETTE PROGRAMME

Kenneth R. Baker was put in charge of the programme, it was called the Electrovette in part because it was a Chevette converted to battery power. The motor used direct current (DC) and the batteries used were zinc nickel oxide. It was significant that the motor was DC because DC motors required the contact of conductors made out of carbon (brushes) with a copper ring (commutator) of the spinning rotor. This leads to friction and arcing (sparking) and thus energy losses. The zinc nickel oxide batteries gave a greater range than standard lead acid batteries but cost significantly more. Even with the zinc nickel oxide batteries the driving range was about 50 miles (80 km) at 30 mph (48 km/h), and a top speed of 53 mph (85 km/h). The Electrovette was considered for serious production if gas prices went high enough to warrant it.
"In this case we got serious," said John Berisa, a GM engineer who worked on Electrovette and other electric propulsion programs, GM was seriously looking at bringing this car to market, he said. Displayed at car shows in the late 1970s, at the time, GM said it expected to have electric cars in production by the mid-1980s and up to 10% of its sales could be from electric cars by the 1990s.
"We ran the programme for about three-plus years even re-doing the exterior," said Berisa. "The $2.50 a gallon gas never happened."

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THE FIRST PROTOTYPE ELECTROVETTE ON THE VIEWING TERRACE AT THE GM DESIGN CENTRE

THE FRONT END HAD A VAGUE VAUXHALL LOOK ABOUT IT, BUT THE WHEEL TRIMS ARE THOSE USED, IN SILVER, ON THE LAST OF THE VAUXHALL CHEVETTE GL MODELS

The GM press release read "The Electrovette is the first of a new series of electric test cars produced by the General Motors Corp. This experimental prototype uses twenty 12-volt maintenance-free batteries weighing 920 lbs (417 kg) which are carried in the rear seat compartment. The suspension system has been re-engineered to handle the additional weight. The two passenger sedan weighs 2,950 lbs (1338 kg) and has a top speed of 53 mph (85 km/hr).

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THE CHEVROLET ELECTROVETTE WAS ONLY A 2 SEATER THE REST OF THE SPACE WAS TAKEN UP WITH BATTERIES. IT WASN'T THE ONLY CHEVETTE THAT WAS A 2 SEATER - THE BASIC SCOOTER VERSION HAD ONLY 2 SEATS AS WELL

Acceleration is zero to 30 mph (48 km/hr) in 8.2 seconds. The range using lead-acid batteries is 50 miles (80 km) at 30 mph (48 km/hr). (This is about the same distance as a normal Chevette can travel on one gallon of gasoline.) Zinc-nickel oxide batteries being developed by General Motors that could double the range may be available in the near future. GM lithium/ iron sulfide batteries which are smaller, lighter, and more powerful may be 10-15 years down the road, unless technological breakthroughs can shorten the timespan. Electrovette uses an on-board computer which is a control signal processor and the "brain" of the system."

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ONE OF THE ORIGINAL GM PRESS RELEASE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE ELECTROVETTE

Although the Electrovette was experimental GM showed it publicly in 1978 at General Motors Civic Leader meetings around the United States and at various car shows. In the wake of the 1973 oil embargo GM felt that there might be an opening for electric vehicles in the future and, like today, it wanted Chevrolet to be the lead brand. "General Motors is confident electric vehicles have a definite place in the future of transportation and has designated Chevrolet the lead division for development of an urban battery-powered car," a company statement said. 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 just as elusive today. More important, at the time petrol prices leveled off, American drivers became accustomed to higher pump prices and settled back into large petrol powered vehicles. Chevrolet's launch of an electrified vehicle would wait another 32 years.

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THE ELECTROVETTE WAS DISPAYED ALL AROUND THE US AS SHOWN ABOVE

THE FINAL MAKEOVER FOR THE ELECTROVETTE BEFORE THE WHOLE PROJECT WAS CANNED