When their companies were buzzing around the financial drain in the early 2000s, General Motors leaders came up with an idea to counteract their gas-scrubbing image and point the way to future transport: an electric car with a gas engine backup that could travel where anytime.
At the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, they unveiled the Chevrolet Volt concept car without knowing if they had the technology to pull out a major breakthrough in battery-powered vehicles.
It took almost four years, but the first Volt – a longer range of a plug-in hybrid – rolled off the assembly line late in 2010. GM had hoped customers would be ready for a car that could run 38 miles on stream before a small combustion generator kicked in.
They weren't. On Tuesday, the last Volt was built with a small ceremony at a Detroit factory that is now slated to close. Sales on average less than 20,000 a year, not enough to sustain the costly business.
Volt was not the first electric car, but it was the first to capture anxiety over range at a reasonable price. GM's limited EV1[ads1] came out in the 1990s, and Tesla released its 200 million-mile Roadster in 2008 for more than $ 100,000.
Volt was among the first plug-in hybrids, many of which can go only 20 or so miles on power and have not gained much popularity from consumers.
But Volt served a purpose. It led to advances in lithium-ion batteries similar to those of smart phones and computers. But such advances ultimately led to Volt's death as GM and other manufacturers fully developed electric vehicles that can go 200 miles per load.
"While it was a financial loser, it did what was meant," retired GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who hired Volt for production. "We saw it as a stepping stone to full electric current, which was completely inaccessible due to the da-astronomical price of lithium-ion batteries."
GM now has the Chevrolet Bolt, which can go 238 miles in a single charge, and it has promised many more electric cars in the future.
Volt developed a loyal fan base, many of which are upset by the company for scrubbing the project.
Richard Winters, a 65-year-old doctor from Poteau, Oklahoma, said the Volt is still useful in areas such as Oklahoma and Arkansas where electric vehicle charging stations are few. He bought his first Volt in 2016 for the 120-mile round trip commute from the home of Arkansas Hospital where he works.
He bought another one last year, a renewed model that can run 50 miles on power before the gas generator starts. Because he can recharge at work, most of his commuting is done on battery power. Winter routinely walks 1,400 kilometers between petrol stations, which he likes. And it only costs around $ 1 to charge the battery, he said.
The winters had always wanted an electric car, but as many were afraid he had touched the juice and was stranded. "When Volt came out, I was happy," he said of the almost limitless area.
GM said he should have spent more on marketing the car. "I've been very surprised by the lack of marketing," he said. "I didn't want an electric car if I didn't have that gas engine."
Originally, the Volt would be a slim, futuristic five-seat vehicle built to hold a battery and a new three-cylinder engine to generate electricity, said navigation research analyst Sam Abuelsamid. But because of GM's financial problems, the project was scaled-down and became a modified version of the Chevrolet Cruze compact car with only four seats and many parts from other GM vehicles, he said.
"They did some big steps with that car, but it wasn't all it could have been, and certainly not what they predicted when they revealed the concept," said Abuelsamid.
Although it would be nice to continue to produce Volt, GM had to stop doing so because of part to change consumer preferences for SUVs, he said. The company also lost money on every Volt, money needed for research on autonomous vehicles and more advanced electric cars, he said.  "It's not the right vehicle for the market today," said Abuelsamid. "It's not very sensible to keep it going. As much as you like, it's probably better to let it go. "