Vintage Ad: Henney Kilowatt – The First Post-War Production EV

Looks like a Renault Dauphine, but it’s actually a Henney Kilowatt, the first attempt at a production EV after the demise first electric cars of the prewar era. It was a joint project of National Union Electric and Henney, a long-time builder of hearses, ambulances and limos. The cars were not just converted Renaults, but built by Henney from body parts purchased from them.

Not surprisingly, range and performance were not up to what we are used to now.

The first few were built with a 36 V system, using lead acid batteries, of course. It had a range of some 40 miles and a top speed of 40 mph. Not enough, on both counts. So the system was upgraded in 1960 to 72 volts, using 12 six-volt batteries, the same kind as used in golf carts. Range and top speed went up to 60 miles, but undoubtedly not both at the same time. These early lead-acid EVs hated higher speeds, and range was drastically reduced at higher speeds.

Some 100 or 47 were built, depending on the source, and all but 15 were bought by electric utilities (free fuel). There’s still four that have survived.