Video: GM’s 1966 Electrovan Was The Green New Deal Of Yesteryear

Long before the modern “Green New Deal” was unveiled to the public, GM was attempting to find an alternative source of power and fuel. For a couple of years in the mid-1960s, a group of engineers headed up by Dr. Craig Marks and a staff of 250 took on that task. The result was GM’s 1966 Electrovan.

The Electrovan was a by-product of GM’s work with NASA’s space program. Using the fuel cells that powered the Gemini spacecraft’s onboard systems, GM was able to produce enough power to support a full-sized GM van to a top speed of 70 mph with a range of 120 miles.

1966 – The World’s first fuel cell vehicle (Electrovan). Photo from GM Heritage Center.

The vehicle originally started in a smaller platform, with a Corvair chassis and body as the vessel, but the weight of the fuel cell and plumbing prompted a move to the larger van chassis that could support the project.

The Electrovan was only used on company property due to safety concerns. One of the early versions had exploded, sending pieces flying as far as a quarter of a mile away. The project was finished and shown to the media, then scrapped due to the outrageously high cost of building the beast.

Not only was the vehicle cost-prohibitive, but the van ran on hydrogen. There was no infrastructure in place to support hydrogen fueled vans. The company tried to load the vessel to the Smithsonian institution, but was rejected. GM stored the vehicle in a warehouse in Michigan. Eventually it was moved to the GM Heritage Center. From time to time, the Electrovan gets loaned out to car museums for special displays.

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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