You’ve probably never heard of the GM XP-883, but it was an experimental, special purpose commuter car that was presented at the GM Progress of Power presentation in 1969. The idea for the XP883 came about at the GM Technical Center, with the goal of making a compact plug-in hybrid destined for urban use. In other words, it was a very early ancestor to the Chevrolet Volt and the Voltec powertrain.
The vehicle was propelled via a 35 cubic-inch (573 cc) two-cylinder engine that was small enough to be exempt from the emission regulations at the time. Alongside it sat a DC electric motor powered by six lead-acid batteries, just like the ones currently used to power auxiliary components on a gasoline-powered car.
The car’s hatchback body style and puny dimensions gave made it somewhat resemble a mini Chevrolet Vega, with enough interior room for two adult passengers up front, and two children facing the rear. Back then, Popular Science magazine had asked:
” Wouldn’t be great to have a car that changed from electric drive for use around town to gasoline power for highway driving?”
The GM XP-883 was the answer to that question. The car could rely on full-electric power from a standstill to about 10 mph, at which point the gasoline engine took over. And very much like modern hybrids, both engines could work simultaneously to create even more power. But this XP-883 Chevrolet Volt predecessor was everything but quick. Unlike today’s hybrids which are sometimes quicker than their gasoline-only counterparts, the XP-883 only had a top speed of 60 mph, and it took – wait for it… now wait for it some more… and a little more now – 28 seconds to reach that velocity! The tiny subcompact also had a set of rear-facing rear seats. No wonder the car never made it to production.
It may have taken almost half a century to put the idea into production, but at least the Chevrolet Volt that the XP-883 foreshadowed is considerably more practical, safer, and faster. Too bad the Volt is no longer, though we hope to see The General offer the powertrain in a different vehicle, likely a crossover, in the near future.