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Hooniverse Weekend Edition: The 1966 GM Electrovan

Let’s reach back into the Wayback Machine, when the Automotive Blogs were invited to the GM Heritage Center in 2007. The GM publicity machine was just beginning the process of brainwashing the media for the advent of the Chevrolet Volt, and what better way to do this but to bring on the History of GM Electric Cars. So it’s time to re-introduce you to the first “Fuel Cell” powered vehicles ever, the GM ElectroVan!


According to the website Hydrogencarsnow.com:

The 1966 GM Electrovan is credited with being the first hydrogen fuel cell car ever produced. Though fuel cells have been around since the early 1800′s, General Motors was the first to use a fuel cell to power the wheels of a vehicle.

The vehicle used was a 1966 GMC Handivan with a science experiment inside. The GM Electrovan was the brainchild of Dr. Craig Marks who headed up most of General Motors’ advanced engineering projects. It has been written that Marks headed up a staff of 250 people to develop the Electrovan, and it took over 2 years before the vehicle was drivable.

According to the posting:

The GM Electrovan used a fuel cell produced by Union Carbide, which was fueled by both super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Today’s fuel cells use less pure oxygen that is native in the outside air. The Electrovan had one large tank for the hydrogen and one for the oxygen and contained 550-feet of piping throughout the rear of the vehicle, turning this 6-seat van into a 2-seater with barely enough room for 2 passengers.

The Union Carbide 5 kw fuel cell (rated at 1,000 hours of use) was able to propel the GM Electrovan for top speeds between 63 – 70 mph. The Electrovan also had a range of 120 miles, which was not too shabby for 1966. Because of safety concerns, the Electrovan was only used on company property, where it had several mishaps along the way.

Read the rest of the article on how the Smithsonian refused to accept the Electrovan, and how it avoided the crusher several times.

Image Sources: Hydrogencarsnow.com and Autoblog Green/Sam Abuelsamid

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