Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

[NEWS] From the archive: the first electric car to ever feature in Autocar

From the archive: the first electric car to ever feature in Autocar

Autocar 1985 EV 1 (1)

Electric cars are nothing new. The Autocar reported on a 'strange beastie' of one in its second issue, back in 1895

While electric vehicles have surged in popularity in recent years, they've been around for a long time. Longer than many people think: the history of the EV dates back nearly 200 years. 

Electric carriages could be found on the road in limited number back in the late 1820s, but it was the 1859 invention of rechargeable lead-acid batteries that really made them a viable option. Electric powertrains made popular choices for taxi cab drivers in the UK in the early the 20th century, and were briefly the best-selling type of car in the USA - until the refinement of gasoline made it substantially cheaper.

Early electric vehicles were vastly different from those you'll find on the road today. Autocar's sister brand Move Electric, which covers all forms of electric mobility, delved into the freshly digitised Autocar Archives to find the first time an EV appeared. You'll find it a full 126-years ago in the November 8, 1895 edition: volume 1, issue number 2. For context, forget Tesla Incthat was back when Nikola Tesla was experimenting with electric oscillators, x-ray and radio.

At the time, there were only a dozen or so cars on the UK’s roads, but it was clear that was about to change rapidly. What was less clear was what the dominant power source for such machines would become.

The first EV featured in Autocar was built at the Raglan bicycle works in Coventry. It was invented by Mr Blumfield and CR Garrard, who were “both well known in the cycle trade”. Classified as a mail phaeton – an open carriage, basically – it took the form of a basic four-wheeled cart built using bicycle construction methods.

For the latest news, reviews and features on all forms of electric transport, subscribe to the Move Electric newsletter

The frame was made from steel tubes, with the two front wheels steered from a long ball socket. The power is drawn from 24 accumulator cells, which were packaged in boxes located beneath the seats – effectively forming a form of ‘skateboard’ electric vehicle chassis akin to the ones most modern EVs use.

If the battery layout would be familiar to modern EV owners, the powertrain was highly unusual, even for 1895: the batteries powered a motor that drove a centrally located spindle. The spindle and two connected rollers were located on a slider, which the driver could move back and forth using a lever. The rollers would essentially jam between the surface of two metal discs: sliding them in increased the power, pulling them out decreased it. The metal discs were contested to tooth gears, which drove the rear wheels via a bike-style chain.

The system meant that the electric batteries delivered constant power to the motor, making it far more efficient that most electric powertrains of the time that featured variable power. According to The Autocar, the machine was capable of speeds between three and 13.5mph. It offered a claimed range of around 70-80 miles, and was estimated to cost three shillings to recharge.

The body of the vehicle was placed on top of the running gear. In all, the machine weight around 453kg (around half of which was the accumulators), around a fifth of the weight of the average electric road carriage of the time.

The Autocar was given a brief ride in the carriage in Raglan’s workshop, and also witnessed it completing an 18-mile road trip from Coventry to Birmingham (undertaken sneakily at 0300hrs, because cars weren’t technically legal in the UK at the time).

So what did The Autocar make of the electric carriage? Having labelled it a “strange beastie”, the magazine suggested it could be “the carriage of the future”. It added: “Here we have a carriage and horses in one, some two horse power being developable, the first experiment appears to us to be perfectly successful, and we have little doubt that there is a large and prosperous future before this class of carriage, in which we hope cycle manufacturers will participate.”

To subscribe to the Autocar Archive, dating from 1895 to the modern day, click here.



E-cars news and reviews

The ten best-selling electric cars in the UK

Audi Q4 e-tron review


E-bike reviews and news

Cairn Cycles E-Adventure 1.0 e-bike review

Ten e-bikes we’re looking forward to in 2022


E-motorbike reviews and news

Ten electric motorbikes to look forward to in 2022

Art, sustainability and choppers - the wonderful world of Stirling Eco


E-scooter news and reviews

Hypercar firm Bugatti's first electric vehicle is an 18mph e-scooter

Ride-hailing firm Bolt set for UK expansion after big investment


E-world news

Veolia to open first UK plant for recycling EV batteries

The new Bobcat T7X is a truly groundbreaking electric digger

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)