Electric cars date back to the earliest days of the automobile industry and for a short time they even rivaled their gasoline counterparts in popularity. Their limited range eventually lead to their demise but manufacturers continued to play around with the idea in the hopes of finding a way to make electric propulsion viable. General Motors was no exception but if you think that the EV-1 was the company’s first attempt at a modern electric car think again.
3D & 2D photos and video of the Electrovair II after the jump.
The Electrovair II was GM’s second attempt at running a Corvair on electrons. Version I didn’t meet the performance parameters that engineers were looking for so rather than tweak that design, they basically started from scratch with a new model.
Version II sported improved electrical control for the motor and expensive silver-zinc batteries. Silver-zinc was chosen for its high capacity and lighter weight but the range (at 40-80 miles) wasn’t markedly better than lead-acid batteries and the limited life span of approximately 100 charge cycles would have had to have been improved to make the system marketable.
The engineers did get the performance that they were looking for. The 115 horsepower AC-induction motor offered acceleration on par with the gasoline version and could easily reach highway speeds of 80 mph.
Though GM could have used any of its models for this exercise, the Corvair was a logical choice since it was lightweight, had plenty of room for the batteries and its compact rear engine/rear drive layout offered a good fit for the electric motor and drive train. With the weight of the batteries in the forward trunk, the Electrovair probably handled a bit better than the gasoline version, as well.
The Electrovair II was strictly an engineering exercise and was never intended to be developed into a consumer-ready model and with relatively stable and cheap gasoline prices in the mid-1960s the public wasn’t exactly clamoring for electric cars. (Air pollution was a major concern in urban environments back then but by the time electric cars would become even remotely viable, other technologies would largely solve that issue.)
The Electrovair II remains in General Motors’ possession and it is currently on display at the GM Heritage Center, next to the Electrovan, the world’s first fuel cell vehicle, developed by GM in 1966.
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