Friday Flashback: The Tama EV Was Japan’s Answer To Oil Scarcity


Following the Allied victory over Germany and Japan in 1945, both loser nations required massive rebuilding effort that were hampered by a serious lack of oil. Japan in particular lacked easy access to oil, and in the years following World War II creative mobility solutions were required, which included the Tama electric car.

Tama, which merged with the automaker now known as Nissan in 1966, stood out as the best of a bad bunch of electric cars in post-war Japan. Top speed was just 35 KPH, or just 21 MPH, though a driving range of about 95 km, or 60 miles actually isn’t much less than the current crop of EVs. One unique feature that actually made the Tama somewhat practical though were the wheel-equipped batteries, which made swapping an empty pack for a full one fairly easy.

The Tama was produced in limited numbers from 1947 to 1950, serving mostly as a taxi and utility vehicle while Japan’s devastated infrastructure was rebuilt. Germany had a different response to oil scarcity, instead rely on ultra-efficient small cars like the BMW Isetta to get from Point A to Point B. Other solutions to a lack of oil included “gas bag” vehicles powered by natural gas stored in inflatable fuel bags attached to the top of the vehicle.

Humanity can be incredibly clever when we’re forced to be…too bad ideas like electric cars and efficient compacts took another 60 years to really catch on with the general public. That’s the march of progress, I suppose.

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.