7 Green Cars That Paved the Road for the Model S

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As Tesla plans to open its “Gigafactory” to produce lithium ion batteries on a massive scale, imagining electric cars in the mainstream is now possible. Electric vehicles that cover hundreds of miles, cost less than $40,000, and wow onlookers could feasibly sell in the hundreds of thousands every year. Brilliant engineering and the ever-grand vision of Tesla CEO Elon Musk are changing the auto industry.

It’s useful to remember that Tesla didn’t invent electric cars; it is just trying to perfect them. A decade after an experimental electric offering from General Motors exited the scene, the precursors to the Tesla Model S are apparent. They represent breakthroughs in electric range, style, efficiency, and pure imagination. Without them, it’s difficult to see today’s EVs hitting their mark. Here are seven cars that paved the road for the Model S.


1. General Motors EV1

To find the most influential (and controversial) electric vehicle of all time, we journey to 1996. The location: Planet Earth; the automaker: none other than General Motors. Sporting a lead-acid battery pack and serving up 137 horsepower, the so-called General Motors EV1 had an impressive range of 70 to 90 miles per charge when it debuted.

By contrast, the 2014 Chevy Volt gets about half that mileage. Its full story is told in the documentary Who Killed the Eletric Car?, but the short version is the EV1 was available only on lease. In 2003, GM collected all its pioneering electric cars and summarily crushed them into scrap metal. Nonetheless, the seeds of the electric dream had been sown.

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