Did GMC Really Used to Build Electric Trucks?

Think electric vehicles are some new innovation? Well, think again. The truth is that in 1832, the first electric car was developed. These cars were not the luxury vehicles we think of today. However, innovators in the United States, as well as in Hungary and the Netherlands, were developing electric cars in the late 19th century.

How many electric cars were on the roads in the early 1900s?

The grille of a GMC vehicle parked in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The GMC logo | Robert Alexander/Getty Images

By the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a thriving electric car manufacturing industry. In fact, in 1900, of the 2,370 cars on the streets of Boston, Chicago, and New York cities, 800 of them were fully electric. Additionally, just 400 vehicles were gasoline-powered, and the other 1,170 were steam-powered.

A few decades of improvements made these electric cars quiet, clean, and efficient. Fashioned after the horse-drawn carriage, as many as twelve different manufacturers in the United States were making electric vehicles. The biggest downfall of the electric car was the limitations of the electric batteries.  

When did the General Motors Company produce electric trucks?

General Motors Company (GMC) didn’t start-out as GMC; it began when two companies, Rapid Motor Vehicle Company and Reliance Motor Company, became one. Rapid Motor Vehicle Company produced two-cylinder delivery trucks, and Reliance Motor Co. built cars and trucks. The Grabowski brothers bought both companies in 1902, which then became the General Motors Truck Company in 1909.

In 1911, the “GMC Trucks” logo was launched, and in 1913, the company name was changed to GMC. As reported in The Detroit Free Press, “GMC built battery-powered electric trucks that could haul from 1,000 pounds to six tons in 1912.”

Amazingly, in 1901, Ferdinand Porsche created the first electric hybrid car. As reported on the energy.gov website, The Lohner-Porsche Mixte was “powered by electricity stored in a battery and a gas engine.” Porsche was on to something. Eventually, the electric motor fell out of favor when the internal combustion engine was improved. GMC began using the Detroit Diesel in its trucks in 1931, which was also the year that the Chevrolet and GMC overlap began.

GMC versus Chevrolet

Over the years, it was practically impossible to see the difference between the GMC and Chevrolet models. However, in 1996 the truck division of GMC merged with the motor division of Pontiac to become an upscale division offering premium luxury vehicles like the Denali series. The merge changed the way the GMC provided cars for sale to the public. Chevrolet models are now exclusively sold at Chevrolet dealerships, while GMC dealerships sell GMC, Buick, and Cadillac models.

The new GM electric pickup truck will launch in 2021

In November 2019, CEO Mary Barra announced that GM would introduce an electric truck to the market in fall 2021. GM calls this new direction for the company its “all-electric future.”

In an April 30 article on TechCrunch.com, Barra said, “GM has an industry-leading truck franchise and industry-leading electrification capabilities, and I assure you we will not cede our leadership on either front.” She added, “We intend to create an all-electric future that includes a complete range of EVs, including full-size pickups.”

GM said in January that the Cadillac would become “its lead electric vehicle brand.” ┬áThe focus will be “developing a new battery electric vehicle architecture which will be the foundation for an advanced family of profitable EVs.”

So, we should expect an outstanding line of luxury cars, crossovers, and SUVs as well as luxury trucks coming from GM in 2021. They are sure to deliver the goods.