GM's long road back to electric cars

General Motors' starts, stops and occasional short circuits on the road to the Chevy Volt.

1 of 9
BACKNEXT
From the earliest autos
From the earliest autos
A product of the Olds Motor Co., this electric car was produced before Olds joined Buick in 1908, which was the start of General Motors.
Electric cars are not a particularly new idea. In fact, electricity seemed like a natural way to power early automobiles. The motors were quiet, clean and unlike gasoline or steam engines, they could be started with a button press.

The disadvantages were that electric cars lacked the range and speed of gas or steam cars, so they were marketed as the ideal choice for women since, it was said, they needed neither speed nor range just to run errands around town.

The problem for the electric motor was that little could be done to improve it. Meanwhile, gas engines became quieter and cleaner. General Motors tipped the balance towards gas-powered cars even further with its invention of the electric starter in 1911, which meant they no longer had to be hand-cranked to start.

GM didn't abandon the electric car altogether. In the past century, it's made several attempts to bring one market, so far with little success.

Materials from GM's extensive archives in Warren Mich. offer a look at the carmaker's various forays into electric drive over the past century. One might finally take off.


NEXT: GMC Electric trucks
Last updated April 07 2009: 2:19 PM ET
More Galleries
Novelty gifts for people with money to burn For those who've got the cash, these holiday gifts can really make a statement. More
The best stocks of 2014 This year has been very solid for stocks, but these 6 were the best of the S&P 500. More
14 biggest tech fails of 2014 2014 was chock-full of big failures in technology, from security snafus to executive gaffes. Here are the top ... er ... bottom 14. More

Special Offer

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.