Geo Storm EV Mule, The Chevrolet Volt's Baby Daddy?

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
geo storm ev mule the chevrolet volts baby daddy

While on the Infiniti JX launch event, I met a gentleman who now works with Nissan. He had a number of interesting stories about his tenure at GM, and what it was like to work on the EV1 program, as well as the technology that he swears was the forerunner to the Chevrolet Volt.

According to him, GM engineers in 1991 needed a way to keep the batteries in their GM Storm EV mules charged. A crude range extender was fashioned out of a Honda generator, which would kick in when the batteries dropped below a certain point.

The Storm mules were gutted and filled with batteries and a generator and driven around during development. He swears that, with the number of EV1 and Impact (the original GM EV) people left kicking around for the Volt’s development, the range extender idea must have lived on in someone’s mind for a very long time, until it came time to put it in operation.

I begged him to grant me an interview, or at least let me quote him, but he wouldn’t indulge me. I was left wondering about the early days of the program, until I stumbled upon this article in the January 1992 edition of Motor Trend. The big difference here is that GM has ditched the range extender and worked out a proper 220V charging system (apparently that was an obstacle in the early days). Note that the EV1 charging paddle is absent here, and it seems to use a very-1990s flashing LED charge port, similar to the L.A. Gear running shoes that were found to have mercury in them.

Since there seems to be a fair amount of Storm love on TTAC these days, it’s worth recognizing the irony of a largely forgotten car paving the way for perhaps the biggest automotive lightning rod since the Edsel.

You can see the full-size scan in the gallery below

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  • Schmitt trigger Schmitt trigger on May 31, 2012

    Around the same time, GM's Electro Motive Division was succesfully replacing the DC motors in locomotives with AC-induction motors. The latter motors are lighter, cheaper and essentially maintenance free. Of course to power an AC motor requires a far more complex electronic brain which drive an equally substantial electronic power small feat in the early 90s! I wonder how much of EMD's expertise was used by Chevrolet? Of course in locomotives, the power devices were either thyristors or IGBTs, whereas on a car you had to use the smaller and less expensive Mosfets.

  • Car_guy2010 Car_guy2010 on May 31, 2012

    Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if GM had not killed off the EV1 program. Would we have something far more advanced than the Volt at this point? I doubt it due to two important factors: 1. The price of gas. Periods of stable gas prices interrupted by short bursts of rising gas prices. Eventually, they stabilize. 2. Battery technology The battery technology available back then was not as powerful or efficient as what we have now. Even so, current technology must evolve at a rapider rate to keep up with the demands of the marketplace. I wish you could have gotten that interview as well. I'm wondering if this person was sworn to secrecy past a certain point?

    • See 4 previous
    • ZoomZoom ZoomZoom on Mar 02, 2013

      @Yoss Oh me too! People will believe ANYTHING these days, what fun that would be!

  • Kat Laneaux What's the benefits of this as opposed to the Ford or Nissan. Will the mileage be better than the 19 city, 24 hwy? Will it cost less than the average of $60,000? Will it be a hybrid?
  • Johnster Minor quibble. The down-sized full-sized 1980-only Continental (which was available with Town Car and Town Coupe trims) gave up its name in 1981 and became the Town Car. The name "Town Coupe" was never used after the 1980 model year. The 1981 Lincoln Town Car was available with a 2-door body style, but the 2-door Lincoln Town Car was discontinued and not offered for the 1982 model year and never returned to the Lincoln lineup.
  • Zipper69 Some discreet dwebadging and this will pass for a $95k Lucid Air...
  • Zipper69 Does it REALLY have to be a four door?Surely a truly compact vehicle could stick with the half-door access with jump seats for short term passengers.
  • ToolGuy See kids, you can keep your old car in good condition.