1904—1909: Formation of General Motors
GM traces its origins back to William Durant first taking leadership over the Buick Motor Company, which developed engines for industrial and marine use. From there, GM integrated the best minds and innovations under its name — including Cadillac, Olds Motor Works (later Oldsmobile), Elmore Welch, Cartercar, Oakland (later Pontiac), Reliance Motor Truck Company and the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company (later GMC) — into one automotive superpower.
When America became involved in WWII, every GM division dedicated to the effort. GM built more than 198,000 diesel engines, 206,000 aviation engines, and thousands of other gasoline and marine engines for the armed forces’ use during WWII. In this time, GM divisions further innovated propulsion technology for heavy marine and submarines, heavy-duty trucks, tanks and landing crafts.
After Chevrolet began building and marketing engines for automotive, agriculture, industrial and marine sectors in 1963, the Electrovair I and Electrovair II were developed to test the viability of electric power for passenger cars. A new electric system replaced the engine and transmission, and R&D helped develop the 450– and 530–volt silver-zinc battery packs — advancing electric vehicles with a top speed of 80 mph and a range of 40—80 miles per charge.
1971: Electric Lunar Rovers
In 1964, GM worked within the aviation industry to develop and manufacture the EV mobility system for the first Lunar Roving Vehicle taken to the moon in 1971. GM led efforts in furnishing the vehicles with wheels, suspension and motors. Today, you can still see the Lunar Roving Vehicles from Apollo missions 15, 16 and 17 on the moon.
1974: First Catalytic Converter
GM R&D played a pivotal role in developing material innovations and catalyst technologies and led to GM R&D, becoming one of the first groups to predict the correlation between atmospheric pollution and the earth’s surface temperature.
From 1975 on, all GM cars sold in the U.S. and Canada were equipped with the catalytic converter, and GM made its technology available to the rest of the industry at no cost.
1979—1989: Electric Vehicle Conversion
GM collaborated with the U.S. Department of Energy to convert 35 GMC full-size vans to electric power, 15 of which were used within the communications industry in Detroit. Between 1985 and 1989, GM furthered the electric vehicle movement by building 100 more GMC van conversions for an Electric Power Research Institute program, utilizing experience gained from the earlier program
GM designed and built the Sunraycer as a solar-powered race car for the inaugural solar-powered vehicle competition, the 1,950-mile (3,138-kilometer) World Solar Challenge race. The race car’s innovative power came from a brand-new electric motor based on Magnequench permanent magnets developed at GM's R&D and won the first race in 1987 by a huge margin, further propelling GM toward an electric future.
2002: VORTEC Industrial Engines
GM Powered Solutions manufactures and sells its Vortec industrial engines to numerous original equipment manufacturers, many of which are designed to operate on multiple fuels, including gasoline, liquid propane gas and natural gas. The introduction of Vortec's innovations ushered in higher performance and efficiency engines to a wide range of applications outside of just on-road vehicles.
2005: 1st Fuel Cell Military Truck
Through R&D efforts beginning in 2005, GM unveiled a fleet of 16 Equinox-based hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicles and developed the fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Colorado pickup and the Colorado ZH2. GM tested these new fuel cell-powered concept vehicles in extreme field conditions to confirm the viability of hydrogen-powered concept vehicles on military missions — advancing fuel cell technology for new challenges.
2009: DURAMAX Diesel Gears Up
GM Powered Solutions and GM geared up Duramax Diesel engines for industrial applications in 2009. The Duramax ® Diesel had been recognized for operating quietness and smoothness, and its success in diesel vehicles proved to carry over into a wide range of industrial applications.
2010: Accelerating Zero Emissions
GM R&D developed groundbreaking methods that allow us to gauge the feasibility of implementing future vehicle technologies. As a result, GM began selling the Chevrolet Volt, a gas-electric plug-in hybrid vehicle and introduced electric networked vehicles. With these methods, GM accelerated its zero tailpipe emission vision.
2022: GM Ultium
Ultium, an electric vehicle battery and motor architecture designed by GM, promises to accelerate GM's vision of a world with zero emissions. With a modular, simplified design compared to fossil fuel engines, high-energy pouch cells can be arranged horizontally or vertically, in single layer or stacked configuration, Ultium delivers flexible engineering compatible with most vehicle designs. Soon, Ultium will deploy in EV vehicles across the GM portfolio and the EV industry.