Dear R-EV enthusiasts
At Electrogenic we are always saying things like “we are in another golden age of motoring” and (being Oxford-based) “it’s like it must have been 100 years ago for William Morris”. But what was it like before William Morris switched production from bicycles to cars in 1912? It turns out it was electrifying. In fact electric cars beat the competition hands-down at the dawn of motoring and ruled the roost for a quarter of a century until improved reliability of petrol engines, petrol stations and Henry Ford eased them into the background. Who knew Ferdinand Porsche built the world’s first hybrid before the beginning of the last century?!
Back at the garage, our pioneering continues. We have designed and are now installing a unique direct-drive system. We will unveil all when we take it for a drive. In the mean time, happy summer motoring!
Back to the Future
The first EV was built in France in 1881 by Gustav Trouve, who re-engineered a Siemens motor. In the UK, Thomas Parker developed high-capacity rechargeable batteries in 1882, but development of meaningful electric cars had to wait for the abolition of the Red Flag Acts in 1896. Thomas went on to produce EVs with hydraulic brakes and four-wheel steering.
Inventors in the USA had no such restrictions. The first successful electric car in the United States was built by William Morrison (no relation!) in 1891. The four-horsepower vehicle had a top speed of 20 mph and could carry up to 12 passengers. It was powered by 24 battery cells that were stored under the seats and had a range of 50 miles.
Over in Europe, in 1898 a certain Dr. Ferdinand Porsche built his first car: the Lohner Electric Chaise. With a hub-motor at each driving wheel it was the world’s first front-wheel-drive. Porsche’s second car was a hybrid, using an internal combustion engine to spin a generator that provided power to electric motors located in the wheel hubs. On battery alone, the car could travel nearly 40 miles.
The same year saw the first speed record. On December 18, 1898 Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat of Paris, France, became the fastest man alive. The Count had driven his speed demon electric vehicle Jeantaud to speeds never known before or experienced by any human. This speed was a phenomenal 39 miles for per hour. His record lasted only four weeks and led to a spat with Belgian Camille Jenatzy. Over the next four months the record was batted to and fro between them until Jenatzy finally trumped the “Electric Count” with a record a record 65.79 mph in the “Jamais Contente”. (The last official electric speed record was in 1902 in the USA, at 104 mph, which lasted two years before being beaten by a steam car at 127mph.)
Electric cars were attractive for city use, and were more reliable and easier to keep than their petrol cousins. The wonderful Jay Leno has a 1909 Baker Electric in his collection and you can see the attraction here.
Eventually the electric car lost out to the internal combustion engine as roads started to connect cities (creating more need for range), the discovery of oil in Texas (cheaper petrol) and Henry Ford inventing mass-production (cheaper petrol cars). The last Detroit Electric car was shipped in 1932, but along the way, the EV pioneered the steering wheel, rack and pinion steering, safety belts, hub motors, regenerative braking (1894!), shaft drive, use of alloy steel, “full floating” ball bearing rear axle and the land speed record. And then came Tesla…
PS While we’re on the “back to the future theme, does anyone have a DeLorean they want converting….)
What's in the workshop?
This is where we make you do some of the work: figure out what vehicles these photos are from, and earn yourself a pat on the back when we publish the answers in the next newsletter.
Answers from June:
Mystery Picture 5 – it’s a Quaife limited-slip diff about to go into a new gearbox for the Marmite bus… so Paul Swift could drift it! If you missed that, click here for the action
Mystery Picture 6 – fancy wheels for the mini
And welcome to... Alex!
Alex has joined us to organise and bring in-house all of our component design. Our library of bespoke parts is ever-increasing and it makes sense to have continuity in the design process, so we can reduce machine costs and continually improve.
Alex has a Masters in Automotive Engineering from Oxford Brookes University and as you can see, we have promised him at least two days a week in the workshop, away from Solidworks!
This month we also spent a happy hour with Ian Cook at @popbangcolour doing a live Instagram feed. Ian painted our very own Hudson Commodore, while chatting to us and asking questions while we walked around the garage showing the viewers what was going on. A new experience for us, and we ended up with a painting of our Hudson!
The delve into EV history was first prompted by Jay Leno. It’s fascinating, and there’s lots more than we touched on above. His YouTube video of the Baker Electric Car really is great viewing, so don’t pass it by. And of course there are lots of other interesting EVs on our YouTube playlist.
Lot’s of what happens day to day, and the new cars coming in and out of the workshop, appear on our social media. So if you want to keep in touch between newsletters, please check out the links below. And we are doing Covid-appropriate test-drives again. So if you fancy driving a Retro-EV, give us a call…