Nissan and 65 Years of Electric Vehicles

Gary S. Vasilash

Anyone who has ever planted a seed and then obsessively watched for it to sprout knows that it takes an exceedingly long time for something to happen. But then once the growth becomes visible, it seems to be almost inexorable.

The Nissan LEAF electric vehicle (EV) has been on the market for about two years. In February the company proudly announced that, on a global basis, sales had hit the 50,000 mark.

Nissan LEAF Smashes 50,000 Global Sales Milestone

Last week, Nissan North America announced that LEAF sales for the month of March were 2,236 units, or 286.2% better than they were in March 2012. It is worth noting that a number of those vehicles—the cars and the batteries—were produced by Nissan in its Smyrna, Tennessee plant. It started producing vehicles there in January.

Nissan Begins U.S. Assembly of 2013 LEAF Electric Vehicle and Batteries

What’s interesting to note is that Nissan has a longer history with EVs than you might think.

Like this:

1947 Tama Electric Car

It is the Tama, an electric vehicle that was produced in 1947.


Explained Masahiko Isobe, a member of the Nissan restoration team that has made this car like new:

“Japan lost the war and gasoline and industry were limited by the Allied Occupation forces. But engineers at the time—particularly airplane engineers—took Japan’s logistics and transport systems into consideration and thought they had to make some kind of automobile.

“The Tama EV came to be made entirely by engineers at Nissan Motor, Prince Motor, formerly known as Tachikawa Airplane.

“Because the state of industry was in burnt-out ruins from the war, industrial options were stifled. Even in the home, there was nothing more than bare light bulbs and radios. But in the mountains there were electric power plants and electricity was rapidly generated.

So with the idea they could make cars run using excess electricity, they built this Tama EV.”

The four-passenger car measures 119.5 in. long, 48.4 in. wide, 64.2 in. high, and has a 78.7-in. wheelbase. It weighs 2,425 lb. It is powered by a 3.3-kW DC motor and uses lead-acid batteries. Its cruising range: 40 miles.

It has a wood structure covered by steel panels.

The LEAF? According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the range of a 2012 LEAF is 73 miles.

Doesn’t seem that we’ve gone too far in 65 years, does it?