By on February 27, 2012

While strolling around in Nissan’s Tech Center, looking for secret cars, I lucked into this: Nissan’s first EV. Along with its Chief Engineer. Both retired.

After World War II, oil was very scarce in Japan, but electricity was plentiful. The Japanese government did the same certain governments do today: It promoted the manufacture of electric vehicles. Shepherded by Chief Engineer Tanaka-san, the “Tama” was built in 1947.

A big battery gave it a cruising range of 96.3km and a top speed of 35.2km/h. The Tama was used as a taxi and in similar roles until 1950.

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21 Comments on “Leaf’s Grandfather...”

  • avatar

    Did the promotion include huge subsidies? It’s remarkable that it managed 100kM of range despite a low travel speed, which for Tokyo would be about right.

    • 0 avatar

      96 km is about 60 miles, probably at 15-20 mph.

      The Nissan Leaf can travel 130 miles at a constant 35 mph. Probably it would do 160+ miles at 15-20 mph, though a test driver would likely bleed out through gnawing off their arm before reaching this point.

      TTAC has profiled the Tama before:

      Another internet source claims a maximum range of 65 km for the Tama, and a 1949 prototype that extended range to 200 km.

      Per that site, the Tama has a 6.4 kwh lead acid pack, or approximately 25% of the Leaf’s 24 kwh lithium pack.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Is that a swappable battery pack?

  • avatar

    It looks like a toy!

  • avatar

    It’s the 2013 Cube EV.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Swappable battery pack….good call.

    Now, if we were to actually have such things in the EVs…and have a standardized size/power rating…there might be a future (albeit limited) to EVs.

    • 0 avatar

      The company Better Place is trying this in Israel. They’re building out based on a cell-phone company model where you buy a subsidized electric car and then subscribe to a battery lease. Stations swap your battery when you need a charge with a fresh one.

  • avatar

    The original company was called Tama and they changed the name to Prince.This car was actually designed by the Prince Motors Company. They went on to build the Prince Skyline and Prince Gloria. They made a few other weird cars that are collectible but incredibly rare. Nissan bought out Prince and turned their employees into a new branch. This branch only worked on the motorsport end of things. They designed most of the Nissan Skylines.

    • 0 avatar

      Usual story was that the Datsun 510 was a design by Prince about the time that they were taken over by Datsun. Notice the difference between the 4xx series & the 510?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    One more time. BEVs are not new technology.

  • avatar

    Let’s see- lack of power for speed, lack of battery power for range. The answer is obvious, talk to any Navy recent Aircraft Carrier guy; just put a big enough nuclear (NOT nookuler) reactor. VIOLA!! Problem solved!!
    I’ve heard stories of carriers able to go ~40-50 knots, limited by vibrations of the machinery, not lack of power.
    There, just like those magazines after WWII.

  • avatar

    I remember Tama taxis. They were lining up at the Kichijoji train station waiting for fares and being charged up at the same time. The buzzing soud of the chargers were very audible.

  • avatar

    So 75 years of global automotive, electronics and materials development later we’ve only got the Leaf and Volt to show for our efforts? Is a “real world” practical and affordable electric powered vehicle the modern day equivalent to the search for the Holy Grail. Come to think about it a new Monty Python EV movie might be funnier than the original :-)

    • 0 avatar

      Those Tama batteries were good for 100 cycles at best.. while a modern BEV can do about 1500. Perhaps 3000 miles?

      At least you could rebuild the batteries in your backyard with a good supply of molten lead.

  • avatar

    Electric cars are the wave of the future. Or at least they may have seemed that way back in 1900.

  • avatar

    I’m saving up to buy a $100,000 GMC steamer with shag carpeting. Should be available in 2018 if Obama wins a second term and then we elect Biden in 2016. Steam baby! The wave of the future!

  • avatar

    Man will discover a decent battery for the EV at the same time the species discovers the cure for the common cold.

  • avatar

    How did their styling go from this to the Juke?

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