General Motors Electrovair II

Yesterday, I wrote about the General Motors Electrovan and promised another alternate fuel vehicle from General Motors for today. How's an all-electric Corvair for you?

To say EV development was in its infancy in the 1960s would be both true and false. We're all well aware that electric cars were in fact more numerous than gasoline vehicles at the turn of the 20th century—so it's not like electric cars were a new thing in 1966. New developments included better batteries, control units, and electric motors, components that were very much in their infancy at that time. For example, the Electovair II didn't even have regenerative brakes, a now-standard feature for EVs.

The first Electrovair, in 1964, was an interesting vehicle but not as impressive performance-wise as the second, built just two years after. If you're on the fence about Chevrolet's Volt or Bolt names, knowing they passed up "Electrovair" as a potential name should make you furious. 

Even in a modern sense, the car gave good performance, with its top speed and all-electric performance matching up pretty well with even the Volt production car. Yes, the Electrovair II lacks Bluetooth, iPod jack, and the luggage space was filled with batteries, but the numbers it put up in testing were pretty good.

From a 115 horsepower AC electric motor and 532 volts of silver-zinc batteries, the car could hit 130 km/h (80 mph), and its range was between 65-130 km (40-80 miles) on a six hour charge. At a svelte 453 kg (1,000 lbs) heavier than the gasoline Corvair, acceleration was about as brisk as a modern smart fortwo at 16 seconds from zero-to-100 km/h (62 mph).

In the company's excellent promotional footage on the car (below), the announcer states that what the Electrovair II really needs is a better battery. After just 100 recharges, the batteries needed to be replaced. With an array of zinc and other chemicals sloshing around in the nose of the car I'm inclined to agree that modern energy storage is much improved. 

I'm also of the mind that classic cars make the best-looking electric cars—the famous and much-copied "Corvair Line" still looks pretty good today. Interestingly enough, years after General Motors made their Electrovair models I and II, the Corvair is a popular do-it-yourself electric car conversion for EV enthusiasts.

I'd like to think that the lessons learned and documented by General Motors during development helped encourage people to make their very own Electrovair—only now they're often far better than the originals built by GM!