The British EV That Brushed Shoulders With Reagan

enfield-1Before the first Arab oil crsis hit American shores, there was a small but sure surge of interest in electric vehicles. In 1966 the United Kingdom Electricity Council held a contest calling for the design of an electric vehicle, and the winner was the Enfield 8000. Though small and slow and rather limited in range, it’s an electric car that could have genuinely changed history for the better.

With a top speed of just 48 mph, it would take more than an hour to max out the Enfield’s 56 mile range. It took 12.5 seconds to reach just 30 mph, and the primitive power system consisted of eight 6V batteries. The design, meanwhile, consisted of a steel tubular chassis with aluminum body panels to keep weight down. It supposedly had even better aerodynamics than a Porsche, which should tell you how far aerodynamics have come in recent years.

In a sense, there is nothing so different about the Enfield 8000 and the hundreds of other small, primitive electric car startups that never got very far into production. Just 100 Enfields were built on the Isle of Wright, though it is said that during a tour of the United States, then Governor of California Ronald Reagan was absolutely enamored with all-electric Enfield.

Reagan reportedly went so far as to suggest supplying free Enfields to residents of Catalina Island, where petrol cars were prohibited, and offered to find a factory site to build Enfields in the Golden State. It may sound like a stretch, but it’s also not hard to imagine a world where EVs got a 40-year head start in America’s most liberal state. And if the same Ronald Reagan then went on to become President? Who knows how history might have been different…or not.

As we all know though, that didn’t happen, as Enfield Automotive’s owner bowed to pressure from oil interests, and mainstream EV production took another 40 years to get serious. Such a shame.

Source: BBC News


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.