Bell bottoms and oversized collars from the 1970s might strike some as kitschy, but the concept of an urban electric vehicle pioneered by UK-based Enfield during the early part of that decade remains current. With Nissan starting production of its all-electric Leaf in Sunderland in the UK earlier this year, the BBC recounts the brief history of a car that it says was ahead of its time.

The car's squat styling and performance may seem dated by today's standards but the Enfield 8000, which was borne out of a 1966 competition conducted by the United Kingdom Electricity Council, used its eight six-volt battery monoblocks to power the vehicle to a top speed of 48 miles per hour. And while the car's drag coefficient was tested to be better than that of a Porsche, it took a little over 12 seconds to get from 0 to 30 mph. And it cost about twice as much as a Mini at the time.

The Enfield moved production to Greece in 1973 and ceased operations in 1976 because of slow sales. A few remain in the hands of collectors, and UK journalist Jonny Smith touted his '74 Enfield last year, saying at the time that he planned to drop a more powerful electric motor into the car. He even named it the Flux Capacitor in honor of the time-traveling DeLorean in "Back to the Future." If you'd like to go on your own falshback, check out an 83-second video on the original Enfield below.



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  • 14 Comments
      paulwesterberg
      • 1 Year Ago
      Happy Dan Review :-) electric :-| light weight(lead acid batteries?) :-( aero :-| cheap (sorta?) :-P performance(12 seconds to get from 0 to 30 is fairly nippy?) Total: 2 happy dans. Nice try but clearly not good enough.
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Enfield was one of the true pioneers of EV history. Although the little car weighs just over a ton, and driving it anywhere near its top speed of 40 mph, is frightening, it's still a great little city car. The Enfield was pretty primitive, but it was an era when the BMC mini was still in production, and selling in the millions. Several EV's were produced during the 1960's and 70's, usually sponsored by Electricity utilities. The little Enfield was supported by the British Government Electricity Council, who bought most of the production. The Enfield-Neorion company produced less than 300 vehicles in it's short lifetime, but they were a brave attempt, and true pioneers of the modern EV. The Enfield was created by an eccentric Greek Ship building magnate, Giannis Goulandris, and manufacture was also eccentric. Produced, sometimes on the Isle of Wight, some times on the Greek island of Syros, and sometimes produced on Syros but assembled on the Isle of Wight. The Enfield 8000 I was able to rescue, is an aluminium body shell, with a steel chassis, and a massive bank of lead acid batteries, to power it's 6 kW electric motor. It's advertised 50 mile range must have been accomplished on airport runway, by a very negligent timekeeper ! The Enfield wasn't cheap, (it cost more than twice the price of an MGB in 1974) . But it so impressed Gov. Ronald Reagan, that he arranged an airlift for three of these little cars, from the UK to California, to be included in an exhibition to support his Clean Air legislation ! Giannis Goulandris, was also responsible for producing an electric copy of the mini-moke, a little Jeep like vehicle. Even more interesting is Mr Goulandris had a huge 4WD luxury car built, a fore-runner of the luxury SUV's so prevalent 3 decades later. In the aftermath of the fall of the Junta, the Greek government was determined to prevent Giannis Goulandris, plans for electric cars and other vehicles being successful.
      dal
      • 1 Year Ago
      A golf cart with roll up windows, Why is it back when electric cars came out about one hundred years ago they were at twice the size of the modern electric cars? Why is it they acted like this is equil to putting a man on the moon? There is a new hybred hitting the market soon with a diesel/electric power plant and again they acted like this is big news, the rail road has been using this same technoligy for decades and a train gets something like 144 mpg pulling a mile of cars.
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dal
        @ dal The reason EV were larger 90 years ago, was that the maximum speed was less than 20 mph.
      jonmcf
      • 1 Year Ago
      http://www.studebakermuseum.org/images/repository/history1-1.jpg Well thats all fine and good but how about 1902 Studebaker electric. Now thats an early EV
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      What's a battery monoblock? lol. Do an article on the EV1. That's a car that people will actually remember.
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        @ 2 wheeled menace I think the EV1 has been pretty well covered, debated, filmed, counter-filmed, and grown into the EV equivalent of the Kennedy conspiracy. Don't you think it might be time to allow stories about other, earlier, EV pioneers to be published ?
      Thomas B. Grady
      • 1 Year Ago
      Well, somebody sure was a visionary.
      Craigo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Electric cars are no more environmentally friendly than gasoline-powered cars. If the libbie gov would allow firewood power plants, then we'd have something. Trees give off more in oxygen during their lifespans than carbon while being burned for fuel. But this is way over the heads of treehuggers.
        mcfaddentj99
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Craigo
        i finally found the single most mis-informed conservative in the country. his moniker is craigo
      larry
      • 1 Year Ago
      An interesting documentary by film maker Chris Paine called "Who killed the electric car ? " examines the genesis and destruction of the EV-1 automobile. These vehicles which produced no exhaust fumes and used no gasoline were one of the best General Motors production vehicles made in limited edition in 1996, and leased by random people selected by lotteries and referrals including celebrities like Alexandra Paul, Alan S. Lowenthal (Calif. State Senator), Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, and Ed Begley Jr. It's interesting who killed that specific model of electric car and why they were destroyed in the end after most leasees insisted on renewing their leases on the vehicles and GM denied them the opportunity. The cars were collected at the end of the leases and destroyed. Moral of this story: The EV-1 was too efficient of an electrical vehicle. Used no gasoline, had no exhaust fumes, and required very little maintenance.
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @larry
        @ larry , Um,.... this my come as a bit of a surprise to you, but since Chris Paine made this documentary in 2006, the vast majority of ABG readers have seen this documentary, and argued about it endlessly ! The documentary sensationalised a long, and mostly inaccurate belief, that a conspiracy existed to kill electric cars, and EV's in particular. The truth is always far less glamorous. The EV 1, was never intended as a production vehicle, it's battery was insufficiently developed, it's size and configuration, was very restrictive, electronics problematic, and if sold as a production car, would have cost over $150,000. In addition, no significant public charging infrastructure existed. Always ignored is the fact that GM built the car as an experimental vehicle. By offering the EV1only as a lease, GM was able to avoid the very expensive and onerous, requirements normally imposed on the release of a new model, by the US federal authorities. At the end of the lease period, the law obliged GM to recover the vehicles and ensure that they were not resold for road use. Anyone who has been involved with the production of early EV's will tell you that the WKTEC film was very sensationalist, and did far more harm than good, by creating a conspiracy where none existed. It also raised unrealistic expectations of 'magic' performance. Other electric vehicles, produced around that time experienced the same problems, including billion dollar failures like Vectrix etc.. Films like WKTEC car maybe new to you, and I congratulate you for your interest, but for those familiar with the history of EV technology, they are annoyingly inaccurate. In the meantime, EV's have developed a great deal, the advent of more advanced electronics, lithium batteries and better charging facilities, have made a huge difference, very quickly. But the most important development has been the hugely successful use of EV technology by Toyota Prius and Lexus Hybrids.. Electric cars (even hybrids) have been able to be built for over 150 years. In fact for the first 25 years, EV's were more popular than gasoline cars. It was only in 1914 with the addition electric self-starters did the ICE vehicle start to make headway against it's electric rival. It always been possible to produce an electric car, but the technology has simply never existed to build a vehicle that's commercially viable. It's taken a combination of massive investment, government support, and technical advances, to produce the EV available for purchase today. It's also taken a decade of hard work, a dramatic change in environmental awareness by the general public, higher fuel prices, Hybrids, massive advances in technology, etc to create the existing market for EV's. Such factors didn't exist in 1996, if GM had attempted to sell the EV1 in 1996-99, the result would have been a commercial failure, and may have destroyed investment in EV technology.
          steves1709
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Marcopolo
          Marco - thanks for the history lesson!
      • 1 Year Ago
      Still better looking than the imiev.
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