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Before Tesla… 1980s Electric Cars (EVs Part 2)

Before Tesla… 1980s Electric Cars (EVs Part 2)

(music) In part one we looked at electric vehicles
and hybrids from the 1960s and 70s. If you want to check out that video, click
the link above. We now move onto the 1980s where individuals
all around the world didn’t want to give up on finding an alternative to the internal
combustion engine. These were the days before our knowledge of
global warming, and the motivation was around reducing city pollution and freedom from the
reliance on foreign oil. OK, let’s get started! (music) Before we get started on 80’s electric vehicles,
here’s a couple from the 70’s that I missed in part one. Thanks to Tomasz Orynski who put me on to
the EMA1. Produced in the communist Czechoslovakia in
1970, it was a tiny car but could take two adults and two children. The car was driven through two motors on each
rear wheel, removing the need for a differential, and like modern EVs the direct motors allowed
for regenerative braking. The top speed was 31mph or 50km/h with a range
of 31 miles or 50km. In 1977 Volvo were also experimenting with
electric vehicles. Known for boxy cars, they made the ultimate boxy
prototype, simply known as the Volvo Electric Car. Volvo only built two concepts, shown here. The car had a top speed of 43mph or 70km/h. The Soviet Union was experimenting with electric
cars of its own with the VAZ 2801 in 1980. It was based on the VAZ 2101 which was itself
based on the Fiat 124. It used lighter nickel-zinc batteries and
an aluminium frame, but even then could only manage 54mph or 87km/h with a range of 68
miles or 110km. There was a hope that it could be used during
the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Only 50 were produced as a test, but they
were found to be impractical. There was no recharging network, and 68 miles doesn’t
get you very far in the vast Soviet territory. Those nickel-zinc batteries could also only
last 150 charges before they needed to be replaced. Ever since the rebirth of electric cars in
1959, people kept trying new designs in the hope that one day, we could make a successful
alternative to the internal combustion engine. In 1981 Jet Industries took the North American
Ford Escort and its sister Mercury Lynx and offered electric conversions, dubbed the “Electrica”. Jet Industries weren’t strangers to converting
vehicles to electric power, creating the Electra-Van in 1978 from a Subaru Sambar, and also converting
the Dodge Omni 024 as the Jet Electrica 007! The Ford Escort was a popular car in the 1980s,
based on the same underpinnings as the European Ford Escort mark III. Jet Industries benefited from the Department
of Energy handouts in the late 70s designed to find a way of reducing the USA’s dependency
on foreign oil. The car used 16x 6V batteries and a 12V battery,
giving it a top speed of 70mph or 110km/h and a range of 50 miles or 80km. Despite it being a full-size car, Jet Industries
managed to sell only 3,000 converted cars between the late 70s and early 80s. The US Postal Service were seeking a replacement
for the stalwart Jeep DJ that it had used since the 1950s. As we saw in the previous video, they had tried
an electric Jeep DJ as well as a converted Comuta-Car in the late 70s. Still without a replacement, by 1981 they
tried another electric alternative, the all-aluminium Kurbwatt by Grumman Aerospace, makers of the
Apollo Lunar Lander. It ran on 14x 6V lead acid batteries with
a 40 mile or 64km range and a top speed of 55mph or 88km/h. Grumman built 50 for the Postal Service to
try out, and although they were used until 1992 they were ultimately unsuccessful. But it wasn’t all bad for Grumman as they
won the contract to replace the Jeep DJ with their petrol-powered Grumman LLV built on
a Chevy S-10 chassis that’s still a common site on American roads today. Unique Mobility launched the Electrek in 1982. It’s styling may have been heavily influenced
by Star Wars, but the car featured both regenerative braking and a sled to quickly remove the 16x 6V
batteries allowing for them to be fast swapped. The car had a top speed of 75mph or 120km/h
with a 100 mile or 160km range. The list price was around $25,000 which today
is around $66,000 or £54,000. Weaning America off foreign oil didn’t come
cheap, and only 50 to 75 fibreglass clad Electrek’s were ever produced. Ubiquity Mobility is actually still around
today as UQM Technologies, selling electric drives for buses, lorries, cars, boats and
even aeroplanes. General Motors has a long history of investigating
electric technology, and we’ll take a look at the ill-fated EV1 in another video, but
after the mid-70s Electrovette concept, GM took another look in 1983, producing a full-size
concept of what this electric car might look like. This would kickstart the work that would eventually
lead to the EV1. Over in Denmark the Hope Computer company
was working in secret on its next big project. Soon it became clear it would be an electric
car, the first Danish car for many years. The Hope Whisper W1 was proudly launched at
an event that lives on to this day in Danish folklore, for all the wrong reasons. The driver of the Whisper was an engineer
who’d been working around the clock to get the car ready and he was exhausted. While driving it around the track he fell asleep
at the wheel, driving the car into a barrier. Although no one was hurt, it was a very embarrassing
event, especially in front of 3000 guests, the worlds press and the Danish Prime Minister! What was to be a day quite literally of hope,
turned into a day of ridicule and the butt of jokes for years to come. Hope tried again with the Whisper II, but
they couldn’t get it into production. Sir Clive Sinclair led nothing short of a
computing revolution in the UK with his ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum computers. A serial innovator he used the money created
from these computers to make an innovative portable TV, and continuing work on a series
of electric cars started in the late 70s. Sinclair was convinced there was a market
for a light electrical car that could go about 30 miles on a charge. It could be more weather-proof than a moped
and likely cheaper, using injection-moulded plastic and polypropylene for the body. Cycle company Raleigh wanted to release electric
bicycles, so in 1983 the Government created a new category of “electrically assisted
pedal cycle”. The vehicle could be driven by people 14 years
and older without a driving licence, but had to go no faster than 15mph or 24km/h. Sinclair
saw his electric vehicle could fit perfectly, so converted his existing design to something
that would fit into this new law. All work on this “car” was done in complete
secrecy and tellingly without any market research. What Sinclair focused on was wind tunnel testing,
believing that the way to longer range was through lower aerodynamic drag. The C5 was launched in January 1985, not the
best time for an electric skate that had no weather protection. It had a range of just 20 miles or 32km, although
the insipid battery meant pedalling assistance would often be required. Clive Sinclair was keen to say that this was
just the first of many electric cars. The larger C10 and C15 would follow. Although the company pointed out that the
C5 driver sat at the same height as a driver of a regular car, it was still very low to the ground,
and many felt it was a death trap on the road. With no market research the team had failed
to realise some of its glaring problems. It was marketed as a way to commute to the
train station, but it would easily get wet left standing outside all day and was light
enough for someone to pick it up and steal it. With a big backlash in the press, sales were
disappointing with many having to be sold at a steep loss. But this hasn’t stopped Sir Clive from trying
to perfect the commuter bike concept. He released the foldable electric Zike in
1992, and the A-bike in 2006, with an electric version launched on Kickstarter in 2015 and they’re still available today for just £400 or $500! There was also the spiritual successor to
the C5, the X-1 that was launched in 2010, but failed to get to production. Although the C5 was the butt of many jokes,
it’s becoming something of a collectable and today has a vibrant fanbase. Over in the USA and GM was looking at electric
vehicles once more. They heard there would be a solar powered
race in 1987 from Darwin at the top of Australia to Adelaide in the south, a distance of 3000km
or almost 1900 miles. The vehicles would have the make the entire
distance powered only by the sun. GM worked with AeroVironment and Hughes Aircraft
to produce a lightweight vehicle called the Sunraycer. It had very low drag and was covered in solar panels
that could generate up to 1500W of power. New innovations in rare-earth magnet motors
meant the vehicle would have improved performance. The new motor was lighter, and GM claimed
it was 92% efficient. Extra power from the solar panels would be
stored in lightweight silver-oxide batteries. The Sunraycer didn’t just win, it crushed
the competition. It finished in Adelaide in just over five
days, at an average speed of 42mph or 67km/h. The second-place car took another two days
to arrive. The Sunraycer set a solar powered vehicle
record the following year, a record bested in 2014 by Ashiya University’s Sky Ace TIGA
at 56mph or 91km/h. Denmark was down after the Hope Whisper debacle,
but it wasn’t out. Seemingly taking notes from Sinclair’s C5,
El Trans produced a larger but very similar three-wheeled electric car, known as the Mini-El. It had room for one with a space at the back
just big enough for a small child or some luggage. Initially the car used lead acid batteries
with a top speed of 25mph or 40km/h and a 43 mile or 70km range. Almost immediately the company ran into financial
difficulty, but new incarnations of the company kept producing the Mini-El, eventually selling
it around Europe and even in North America. What’s surprising is this car is still being
produced today by CityCom in Germany, where it’s been renamed as the CityEl. The drivetrain has been improved and uses
lighter and more powerful lithium ion batteries, taking the top speed to 40mph or 63km/h with
an improved range of 75 miles or 120km. You can own your own brand new CityEl for
just £9,000 or $11,000! Finally, Audi worked on a hybrid concept in
1989 with the Audi 100 Duo. The front wheels were driven by the 100’s
usual 2.3L 5-cylinder engine, but the rear wheels were driven by a motor powered by a
large batch of Ni-Cad batteries in the boot that took 8 hours to recharge. In 1991 Audi produced a similar concept based
on the 100 Avant that had permanent 4-wheel drive. Audi said the car could get 50 miles just
on electric power. To get early advert free access to new videos,
or to appear in the credits, please consider supporting me using the Patreon link below
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100 thoughts on “Before Tesla… 1980s Electric Cars (EVs Part 2)

  1. Funny to think that the best electric car from the seventies was a prototype Soviet Russian knockoff of a fiat family wagon

  2. What I myself don't understand is if I can take various types of actual blue prints from different creator's and switch certain components and pieces around to made a more fully advanced and better built automotive independently,then why can't all of these inventive people get together and ultimately achieve the same imminent goal themselves currently as they have unlimited part's available to them presently?

  3. It seems some of these car companies would say let's see if we can sell an electric car but let's make it so ugly no one will buy it.

  4. You missed a very crucial GM electric vehicle… It was based on a current production petrol or diesel version and it was Built in Britain too But it wasn't a Vauxhall… The Bedford CF Electric van.. exempt from tax it would have been popular except it was twice the price or a standard CF and only a real range of 40 miles

  5. And then there is also OKA available in EV form since mid 1980's and still today in USA:

  6. Elon said he started Tesla because of what GM did with the EV1. GM needs to go bankrupt for good, with no government help this time. Its thanks to their executives that EVs were set back 20 years. Thankfully Tesla is here for good, and now Porsche is launching the Taycan. The EV is no longer dead

  7. The u36 which became the Miniel was designed and built while the c5 was also being designed and took no "cue's" from the c5 at all, the body shell was designed by a Scottish designer called Ray Innes working in the sw of Scotland, the idea for the vehicle came from a Dane called Steen Jensan , they had been working on it from around 1980, we made the body in 1982 it was the first time Ray and I worked together, the U36 was displayed in a bank in Randers Denmark for a while, when the ill fated C5 was announced the U36 was dusted of and by public subscription in Denmark a factory was built and production started, they enjoyed moderate sales success but the electronics were a source of problems, by the time that had been sorted out the factory had run into cash flow problems and the Miniel was sold to Germany. The concept was for a fully enclosed vehicle with the same or less frontal area as someone on a moped or scooter, which it was to replace, it was never seen as a car replacement, the project was first mooted by Steen when he worked for the Danish company Dronnjngborg who made combine harvesters, the combine market was in a down turn and they were looking for other products to fill the factory, Steen who was working there as a designer contacted Ray with whom he had worked for at Rover Triumph, with the upturn in combine sales Dronniingborg lost interest and shelved the project, when Steen left not long after he was aloud to take the project with him, the rest they say is history.

  8. Ohhhh yeaaah , my Victrola brings all the hot proletariat b1tch3s to the yard!!!
    It's absolutely hilarious what communists thought of as "chic" "modern" and "Western".

  9. Technically this was not before they knew about climate change, it was back when they thought climate change was heading in the direction of a new ice age and that humanity's contribution was contributing to the cooling.

  10. You forgot some notable electric cars – prototypes and current production models made by FIAT (now FCA)
    The Fiat X1/23 from 1973

    Fiat Panda Elettra, and Fiat cinquecento/seicento Elettra produced from 1990 to 2005

  11. Hmmm…interesting that so many manufacturers wanted to create "the electric car of the future….oh yeah", but they never thought to invest in developing better batteries….hmmm…interesting.

  12. Great job most enjoyable ,how about the real true hot hatch the fiat strada 105 .and 130 tc.not only built before the mk1 golf at 85 bhp .it was almost twice as powerful .

  13. I wonder if the 27 thumbs-down are from people who have put a 9v battery to their tongue and not handled it well.

  14. A reminder how far Elon has taken us. And we are going to Mars. No doubt Tesla will have a trillion market cap in the late 2020s

  15. I really don't understand why manufacturers have always tried to make electric cars as small and weird as possible. It's not like Tesla had this big epiphany that no one else could've come up with. People like driving regular cars. They're the practical and convenient form of transportation all around.

    All the technology Tesla uses has been around for decades, aside from the computers, which aren't really necessary. GM, Ford, Chrysler, AMC…they all could have developed the electric car technology but didn't. Probably because it would have meant profit losses for them in parts, service and labor.

    Manufacturers have been claiming for decades that there isn't any market for an EV, but it's because all the EVs they've been designing are shit. Tesla has proven that it can be done and it can be economical and practical. So either GM and Ford are incapable of engineering an electric car people want, or they don't want to.

  16. The history of the scientific discovery of climate change began in the early 19th century when ice ages and other natural changes in paleoclimate were first suspected and the natural greenhouse effect first identified. In the late 19th century, scientists first argued that human emissions of greenhouse gases could change the climate. Many other theories of climate change were advanced, involving forces from volcanism to solar variation. Thomas Edison, pioneer of electrical technologies, voiced concern for climate change and support for renewable energy in the 1930s.[1] In the 1960s, the warming effect of carbon dioxide gas became increasingly convincing. Some scientists also pointed out that human activities that generated atmospheric aerosols (e.g., "pollution") could have cooling effects as well.

    During the 1970s, scientific opinion increasingly favored the warming viewpoint. By the 1990s, as a result of improving fidelity of computer models and observational work confirming the Milankovitch theory of the ice ages, a consensus position formed: greenhouse gases were deeply involved in most climate changes and human-caused emissions were bringing discernible global warming. Since the 1990s, scientific research on climate change has included multiple disciplines and has expanded. Research has expanded our understanding of causal relations, links with historic data and ability to model climate change numerically. Research during this period has been summarized in the Assessment Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Climate change, broadly interpreted, is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions (such as more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes (such as oceanic circulation), biotic processes (e.g., plants), variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world. The latter effect is currently causing global warming, and "climate change" is often used to describe human-specific impacts.

  17. EMA1
    Zašlapané projekty 17 – První byla EMA 1/2 ( 1970 )
    Electric Car Škoda ( 1944 )
    Škoda Shortcut (1990)
    Škoda Elcar Ejpovice.( 1992-1993)
    TATRA Beta Electric Car ( 1994-1997 )
    Josef Sousedík Hybrid Car ( Tatra 1927 )
    Josef Sousedík Motor ( hybrid ) train electromechanical power transmission M 290.0 (Tatra) 1936
    František Křižík! electric car ( 1895 )
    Electric Studentcar

  18. Sinclair is Britain’s Steve Jobs, he was a genius, but he should have used it as the first electric mobility scooter.

  19. You are missing the Bedford CF and Freight Rover Sherpa K2 vans converted by Chloride in about 83 to 86. They made hundreds of them. I know one chap who still uses one (with secondhand emergency lighting batteries for power). Prince Philip had one, fitted out as a plush limousine, and made quite a bit of use of it.

  20. Так смешно когда ведущий читает VAZ и говорит ВИЭЙЗИ, сразу видно низкий уровень знания автомобильного мира

  21. I've got a Sinclair C5 – Living at the top of a steep hill, I've had to upgrade it with a modern front hub motor and lithium battery. Now it's a fantastic way to get to work. I know several people in the C5 world using the original on a daily basis so it's really proven it's engineered to last.

    It was a failure compared to the dream Sir Clive had for it, but was the best selling electric vehicle ever made until the Nissan Leaf took the crown in 2011.

    Let me know if you are ever in Bristol and want a go!

  22. The Dodge Omni reminded me of how many nice looking 80s cars could have a second life as electric conversions now. With better range and performance available, it would be a nice option when no longer able to pass a smog test.

  23. Electric engines in cars were around a lot longer than you think early 1900s, big petrol suppressed it. (It was geared towards women answer is no big 'mechanical engineering ' makig it easy to run.) Fossil fuelled cars then were a lot harder to drive than today's manual transmission cars. Even Harder than floating gears on a big truck.

  24. Stopped watching at ”…our knowledge of global warming”. Did you not get the memo? They changed to ”climate change”. Check out ”global cooling” from the 70s while you are at it.

  25. It seems like EVs keep making a resurgence but then fade due to the same problems of cost, range, and charge time. If they can get the current vehicles to 500 miles of range, 5 min to recharge, and under $35K without government assistance they'll take off.

  26. I'm sure fiat heavily took their design ideas for the panda from that Volvo. It was designed only a few years after and it's uncanny how similar it is. There were even 2 electric options for the panda.

  27. In 1980's, base VW Golf wasn't taxed by 15,000 EUR while retarded EV's are subsidized.
    Politicians and their shady "green" subsidy business created the "demand" for EV's.
    Socialism/Communism …… penalize the viable business and subsidize the dead meat business ……… till the money runs out.

  28. Electric cars were a joke and petrol and car companies made sure they stayed that way. So they never developed battery technology.
    Untill Tesla forced them to think ahead and changed the game.

  29. I have a 007. Their claims of it going 70 are a lie — you'd have to tow it up to that speed. (with modern batteries and electrics, it will go worryingly fast. We've seen the NCAP crash tests; we're happy at 50. It'll easily do 70 now, but that's murder for the battery.) Jet Industries were an interesting anachronism. They made golf carts. When the gov started handing out money for alternative fuel vehicles, I'm sure they had a pure Clarkson moment — "How hard can it be?" There's a reason few were made, and very few still exist.

  30. No those were the days of global cooling, my dad said they preached that non-sense about as much as they do global warming today, which is why it's called climate change. With climate change the nut huggers believe they can avoid the obvious hypocrisy they were exposed of spreading, it's all bull shit.

  31. Thank-you for these two videos.Can you please add more electric car videos to the playlist? The EV 'revolution' is gaining pace rapidly, with Norway selling more EV's than fossil-fuelled cars. Thanks.

  32. Why is it that they design team has absolutely positively no artistic skill all these cars are ugly as hell lol 😂

  33. A Dilettante Presumptuous Theorem: There were self sustaining electric cars way before gasoline cars. Electric cars were the first cars made. Do you ever think outside the box about electric cars? They can only travel 300 miles and need charging. You can't go out of town or on a road trip anywhere with an electric car. The whole idea about electric cars is to limit and control how far everyone can travel. In a sense the electric car is a prison.

  34. Wait up "before we knew about climate change/global warming" in the 80s? Nah, I was in primary school back then and already we were having to sit through documentaries and study videos about it, write reports etc

  35. The.batteries are heavy back then and it is still too bloody heavy, expensive with short life like them A.I in Blade Runner!

  36. The first cars where electric.
    Electric cars take away some of the smog in the city. But is far worse for the environment in the long run

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