Most modern Danish car building attempts have been small, electric vehicles. The final Danish car at the museum, where I have taken the photos for the past six installments of this series, is one of them. There are several more which I may cover at a later time.
This little baby is called the Kewet. That is an abbreviation for its creator’s initials (Knud Erik Westergaard) and Elektrisk Transportmiddel (electric vehicle). That pretty much sums it up, this was one man’s vision for a small electric vehicle. His background was as founder and owner of KEW, a company that produced and sold pressure washers. After having sold off the company, he embarked on a project that would end up having cost him 70 million DKK (10+ million dollars) out of his own pocket between 1988 and 1998 when he finally let it go.
The idea was much the same as the Ellert which we saw in the previous installment: Danes live relatively close to their workplaces, so a small car with a short range would serve as a practical supplement to another primary car in the household. Being able to charge the batteries during a normal work day, meant the range of 22 miles in the early versions and 50 in the later versions was not a problem.
Unlike the Ellert this car would seat two and “two cases of beer” as official material at the time declared, so it was more practical. Being certified as a proper car, the Kewet had to undergo proper crash tests which it passed with flying colors. The car is built as a skeleton of galvanized steel tubes to which the body panels are attached.
The car was launched in 1991 and is 96 inches long and 56 inches wide, so it is quite a small car, but you get the sense that it is a real car – albeit tiny. The engine was in the final version a 16 horsepower 72 volt engine powered by 12 12 volt batteries weighing in at 809 pounds resulting in a dry weight for the car of 1,852 pounds. It did 0-31 mph in 10 seconds and reached a top speed of 50. There was a van version that was a bit longer and a bit more powerful resulting in similar performance.
Ambitions for the Kewet were high. The company expected to be selling 35,000 cars per year by the late nineties. The cars were meant to be exported and there were plans for at least 47 dealerships in Europe by 1998 (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Great Britain). But the US was also on the radar. Westergaard was invited by Ralph Nader to come visit with a car, which Westergaard trailered across the US to Denver – and back, when the alleged promises of a possible US plant were not as solid as Westergaard had understood them to be.
To make production on this scale happen production was moved to Germany in 1996. The factory was constructed in former East Germany and in return for creating jobs there, Westergaard and his company were allegedly promised government subsidies, which never came. Having calculated with these subsidies, the numbers did not add up, so with a brand new factory and lots of employees, the company declared bankruptcy in 1998. The production rights were sold off to the Norwegian comany Kollega Bil which, as far as I can tell, still build them today under the name of Buddy.
Before the company folded, around 725 were made. Wikipedia says Buddys (Buddies?) and Kewets had been built in around 1,500 copies combined through October 2013. Westergaard also built a one-off updated version of the car with an engine per wheel, regenerative and electric brakes with much lighter batteries and better performance weighing just 800 pounds with the batteries. It was never attempted put in to mass production.