1947 Tama Electric CarEnlarge Photo
We all know about the latest electric cars to come from the likes of Ford, General Motors and Nissan. But while they may be the latest they are certainly not the first.
In the first of a series of fun trips back in time, we’re looking at the ancestors of electric cars we see coming to market today and ask just how far we’ve come in the intervening years.
Today we’re looking at the 1947 Tama: a four seat, two door electric vehicle which is considered by many to be Nissan’s oldest electric car.
But first, we set the scene.
The year is 1947 and Japan is still recovering from its brutal and bloody pert in World War II. The Constitution of the State of Japan had recently been enacted, resources are scarce, and the country is still under the watchful eye of Allied occupation.
A team of unemployed aircraft engineers from Tachikawa Ariplane company decided to develop a vehicle that could provide a transport solution without relying on heavily rationed oil supplies.
The 36 Volt, lead acid battery pack in the Tama was a far cry from the high voltage electronics found in today’s 2011 Leaf, but had enough capacity to propel the car up to 60 miles per charge.
Sadly however, speed wasn’t the Tama’s forte. With a top speed of just under 22 miles per hour the Tama was anything but brisk. But since frugality rather than speed was the prime design objective we’re sure it wasn’t a major concern.
The eagle-eyed reader will notice that the Tachikawa Tama isn’t technically a Nissan.
You'd be right. It isn't. But then again it is, at least sort of.
You see, Tachikawa renamed itself the Tokyo Electric Motorcar Co. It was then renamed the Price Motor Company, before being merged with Nissan.
So while the Tama isn’t technically a Nissan, it is at least in part, a spiritual ancestor to the Leaf and can be found at Nissan’s headquarters with the rest of its heritage fleet. Nissan gets to claim a long and varied electric vehicle heritage, and one of Japan's most interesting electric cars gets preseved. It's a win-win situation.
Occasionally, Nissan even brings the Tama out to play. Below is a video of a 1947 Tama electric being driven around the 2011 Nissan Leaf test track at a Japanese Nissan Leaf pre-launch tour.
As our fathers were so fond of telling us, “they just don’t make ‘em like that any more.”
No they don’t. Enjoy.