The first Volt from GM was also a plug-in hybrid, but it was built in 1980


GM Silver Volt converted by Electric Auto Corporation [Credit: AutoHistorian

GM Silver Volt converted by Electric Auto Corporation [Credit: AutoHistorian

Chevrolet's Volt wasn't the original, or even the first Volt from GM.

Electric Auto Corporation receives that distinction for their car built in 1980, at the height of America's second gas crisis. It built the Silver Volt, a plug-in hybrid based on a contemporary Buick station wagon—16 years before the GM EV1.

CHECK OUT: Modern electric cars at 20: from EV1 to Bolt EV, where are we now?

CarType.com reports that GM built a fleet of them for testing near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mother Earth News also covered its development back in the day.

GM Silver Volt converted by Electric Auto Corporation [Credit: Mother Earth News]

GM Silver Volt converted by Electric Auto Corporation [Credit: Mother Earth News]

Electric Auto claimed the Silver Volt had almost twice the electric range of today's Volt, or 80 to 100 miles between charges of its lead-acid battery pack. The pack used special plates that allowed the battery to be charged to 80 percent in about 45 minutes.

The car also had a small "auxiliary power unit" whose specifications have been lost to time. 

The APU ran accessories such as the air conditioning and heat, and charged the car's accessory 12-volt battery but would not normally be needed for trips less than 30 miles. 

GM Silver Volt converted by Electric Auto Corporation [Credit: Mother Earth News]

GM Silver Volt converted by Electric Auto Corporation [Credit: Mother Earth News]

It had a top speed of 70 mph and would cruise at 55 mph, which wasn't that far off the norm in those days with the 55 mph national speed limit.

The Silver Volt was equipped as a luxury car for the 1980s with power steering and brakes, windows and seats, and a vinyl landau roof in the back.

GM Silver Volt converted by Electric Auto Corporation [Credit: AutoHistorian

GM Silver Volt converted by Electric Auto Corporation [Credit: AutoHistorian

In an early experiment with flexible urethane bumpers, the wagon got a nose job with a more aerodynamic pointed beak and pop up headlights. Such urethane nose and tail pieces, designed to minimize damage in low-speed crashes, are now near universal practice in the auto industry (although not with pop up lights).

In a sign of how much progress engineers have made in 30 years, GM bragged that the batteries in the Silver Volt would last 40,000 miles before needing replacement.

Hat-tip: Hemmings Motor News.

 
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