What to Read Next

How the future of green cars looked in 1973, from tiny to turbine-powered

jhyde1
Motoramic
8 March 2013

Forty years ago, the newly formed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent photographers out to document the nation's environmental challenges and what was being done to fix them, a cache of images recently highlighted by the National Archives for a display called Documerica. One of those photographers visited a 1973 conference in Ann Arbor, Mich., on the future of clean transportation, and caught the panoply of Detroit's answers to the question. This is not the two-seater General Motors was looking for.

The car shown above was the GM XP-512, part of a set of microcars GM built in 1969 to explore ideas such as hybrid-electric engines. The gas version above was a fiberglass body carrying a 12-hp, two-cylinder engine good for a top speed of 30 miles an hour and a range of roughly 270 miles. In that era, GM had the resources to tinker with any alternative it could envision, from rotary engines to gas turbines to exotic answers like nuclear power. That GM had patents for a gas-electric hybrid more than 40 years ago and didn't build one for its customers until 2004 (the ill-received Chevy Silverado hybrid pickup) and five years after the Toyota Prius was launched remains one of the auto industry's most historic stumbles.

The First Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems Development caught by EPA photographer Frank Lodge included a variety of Frankenstein-quality vehicles, like an AMC Hornet that the EPA had modified with a gas turbine, as well as a GMC bus powered by steam. One of the few all-new vehicles on display was the ESB Sunraycer, an all-electric car designed by racer Bob McKee. As Hemmings noted in 2010, McKee built three of the cars at the request of battery maker Exide to demonstrate the feasibility of a commuting EV. The Sunraycer's specs weren't bad even by modern standards — a range of 100 miles, with a top speed near 70 mph. McKee also saved weight and space by cutting out an on-board recharger; the battery tray, located on the bottom of the vehicle as Tesla does today, could slide out and be refilled with fresh lead-acid cells.

Today the technology looks as out of date as the ties and haircuts. But the dead-ends were instructive in their own way; they showed just how difficult the problem of hauling America on less energy would be for the next few decades, and beyond.

Drivers With No Tickets In 3 Years Must Read This

United States drivers are stunned that they never knew this. If you drive less than 50 mi/day, you better read this...

Help Erase Credit Card Debt with a Personal Loan

Are you paying too much on your credit cards? Consider a Personal Loan to help consolidate your payments.

Business Circle brought to you by AT&T

Where Business Owners Share Tech Answers that Matter. Visit Today and Gain Access to Tools and Advice that Help Solve Small Business Challenges.

What Has Been The 2016 Best Skin Tighteners ?

Women everywhere are saving thousands of dollars on plastic surgery by reducing the appearance of wrinkles from the comfort of their own home.

Insane Navy Seal Flashlight, should it be banned?

The Military has recently released technology that is now available to the public. Get yours before they run out - Limited Supply!

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

Suncast Storage Solutions

Discover Suncast Products Perfect for Your Yard!

Military Mortgage Rates In 2016

Rates as Low as 2.75% (3.028% APR) 15 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military Takes 1 Min!

Buying Medicare Supplement Plan F? Read This First

Plan F is the most popular Medicare Supplement plan option, but there's another plan you should consider.

Comcast Business - Built to Help Business's Grow

Learn How Comcast Business Can Help Provide Your Business With Internet, Phone and Cable Services!

Switch and save!

Switch to Progressive and you could save an average of $548.

A Degree To Save You Time

FlexPath lets you earn a degree on your own schedule with no set deadlines. Learn more.

How To Make Sagging Skin Look Tight and Lifted

[Watch] The easy and effective way consumers across the country are improving the look of their wrinkled and sagging skin without cosmetic procedures.

People In Heavy Credit Card Debt May Not Know This

If you owe more than $15,000, there is a way to pay off credit card debt that few people think of first. (It's not what you think!)