EVLN: Kilowatt EV for Silicon Valley Buckaroo Banzai types

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EVLN: Kilowatt EV for Silicon Valley Buckaroo Banzai types

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1960 Henney Kilowatt electric car was a junction box of 20th century future
May 5, 2019  Bengt Halvorson

1960 Henney Kilowatt for sale on Hemmings

Henney Kilowatt gauges

Henney Kilowatt switch panel

If your historical knowledge of electric cars goes back to the first Tesla
Roadster, the GM EV1 or, perhaps, one of the many intriguing manufacturer
conversions from the 1980s or ‘90s, you have many decades of what-ifs to
catch up on.

Case in point: There’s something far geekier and steeped in what could have
been, in this electric vehicle conceived in the 1950s, the Packard Kilowatt.
One went up for sale on Hemmings this past week, and as of Saturday evening
Green Car Reports has verified with the owner that it’s still for sale.

While it looks like a great addition to a collection, or a truly different
restoration project, we’d venture to say that, like dozens of EVs that
almost were and then weren’t, its backstory is more interesting than the car

What you’re seeing isn’t an electric-vehicle conversion of the rear-engine
Renault Dauphine of that era—at least not quite. The Kilowatt borrows much,
including body panels and cabin pieces, from the Dauphine and was built by a
well-established coachwork company, Henney Motor Company of Canastota, New

DON’T MISS: Classic Mini converted to electric previews new Mini E [

Why would Henney, a high-end coachbuilder that had built presidential
limousines, Army medic ambulances, and various other high-profit specialty
vehicles like hearses produce a little electric vehicle? Because in when
Packard went out of business, in the mid-’50s, Henney had no chassis for the
vehicles it had long made.

The Kilowatt project was masterminded by the National Union Electric
Company, which included Emerson Radio and Exide Batteries. Its propulsion
system was provided by the Illinois maker of Eureka vacuum cleaners (hmmm,
Dyson), and the motor controller by Curtis Instruments.

If that’s not enough, the Kilowatt was formed by an all-star cast of science
luminaries and hybrid and electric-car founding fathers, including Victor
Wouk, who did early work in the development of hybrid vehicles long before
Toyota took on the project. Some sources cite Linus Pauling as being
involved in the Kilowatt.

The original 1959s went to public utilities, who were eager then (as now) to
explore the potential in electric cars that could be charged at home. The
1960 models, which doubled their voltage from 36 to 72 volts, were intended
for private sale, and originated from the bulk purchase of 100 Dauphine
“gliders” (potentially supplied from either Mexico or France)

The Kilowatt could barely earn a profit in its original 36V guise, which
left it with a top speed of just 40 mph. The 72V upgrade, with a new
controller, effectively broke the bank, and the company wasn’t able to meet
its cost targets for the $3,600 price, which equals about $31,000 in today’s
money. [Ed note: Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen for 800V products

Even in this zoomier consumer form, with its somewhat optimistic specs
calling out a 60-mile range and 60-mph top speed—it may have been hard to
see the point with the two-seat Kilowatt. With more than 1,000 pounds of 6V
batteries added in back, the Kilowatt weighed about 2,100 pounds—in the
vicinity of 700 pounds more than the gasoline Dauphine—and the stock braking
system carried over from the Dauphine, National Union reportedly agreed with
the parent company not to equip the Kilowatt with a back seat.

Instead there’s a panel containing contactors and microswitches, covered
with a piece of carpet about where the seat would be, and a system that
allows you to change the operating voltage via microswitches (if you’re
missing a cell or two, perhaps).

While the first 15 or so Kilowatts, produced for 1959, were conversions from
complete Dauphines, the team behind the Kilowatt had ordered 100 “gliders”
for production for 1960. When the project abruptly folded, 43 complete
Kilowatts had been made. The rest of those incomplete cars sat, and in 1975
they sold 71 remaining Dauphines to become Mars II electric cars in
Florida—another project that converted Dauphines.

READ MORE: Historic electric vehicle foundation set up to preserve EV
history [

The seller of this car, Perry McFarland, a retired field engineer in
Illinois, where the car was conceived and built, has become something of an
expert on the model, as he’s gained perused and collected more than 300
public memos and documents available locally. He says that the concept for
the Kilowatt came from the power companies.

McFarland told Green Car Reports that he’s not a car guy or car collector
but bought the Kilowatt a few years ago after hearing about its backstory
from a friend. He’d owned a couple of ever-quirky Renault Dauphines back
when they were new, so nostalgia may have played a part.

This particular Kilowatt is one of the first two of the 72V cars originally
intended for private sale, McFarland says. The other one is in Germany.

The owner cautions that his car is not restored, and that it has some rust
and dents. Although it runs (the first portion of the video below is of the
car for sale), the owner has only ever had it out on farmland.

Silicon Valley Buckaroo Banzai types working on next-generation
electromobility, this is your chance.
[© greencarreports.com]

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commercial-minded descendant of Google's self-driving car project, says it
expects to be "up and running" by mid-2019 ...

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